Five things to watch in South Carolina's spring game


Fourteen practices are in the books and now it's time for the Gamecocks to put on one final scrimmage for the fans with the annual Garnet & Black Spring Game set for Saturday at noon ET. Here are five things to watch when it gets underway:

1. Carousel of QBs: No one is going to win or lose the starting job on Saturday. Steve Spurrier isn't ready to make any decisions about who his starting quarterback will be this soon. In fact, a few weeks ago he said he could envision playing two to three guys under center this season. But with that in mind, there's something to be said about ending the spring on a high note and establishing some momentum ahead of fall camp -- when the much-heralded rookie Lorenzo Nunez arrives. Connor Mitch, Perry Orth and Michael Scarnecchia didn't play well during this past weekend's scrimmage, but a lot can change in one day. A strong spring game could at least create some separation between the trio of QBs already on campus.

2. Jon Hoke's impact: Not that we're expecting drama on the sidelines, but it will be interesting to see a game-like situation in which co-defensive coordinators Jon Hoke and Lorenzo Ward manage that side of the ball. Hoke, Spurrier said, will take over the play-calling duties from Ward, and because of that all eyes will be on him. The longtime NFL assistant should breathe new life into a defense that was miserable at times last year, allowing more than 430 yards and 30 points per game. What Spurrier wants to see from Hoke and Co. on defense is more speed, more effort and better overall fundamentals. Whether that shows up on Saturday remains to be seen.

3. Tandem of tailbacks: Pay attention to the offensive line. Without AJ Cann and Corey Robinson, there's some work to do there. But even so, the running game will be exciting to see develop now that Mike Davis has moved on to the NFL. That's because of Brandon Wilds and David Williams, who represent two of the better players on the roster. Wilds, even in the shadow of Davis, ran for 570 yards and four touchdowns last year. A downhill running back, he's complemented well by Williams, whose breakaway speed has been whispered about for what seems like years now. In a scrimmage in which all eyes will be on the quarterbacks, they very well could steal the show.

4. Supporting cast at WR: Pharoh Cooper can flat out ball. One of the more underrated athletes in the country, he's arguably the top returning receiver in the SEC. His big-play ability and sure hands will be a big benefit to whoever starts at quarterback. But there's a problem. Because Cooper can't do it all. South Carolina needs a supporting cast around him, and at last check Spurrier wasn't thrilled with the production from the other receivers on the roster. A veteran like Shamier Jeffrey should be on your radar, but watch out for underclassmen like Terry Googer to step up and make their case to break into the starting lineup.

5. New blood on defense: It wasn't just that Spurrier brought Hoke in as his co-defensive coordinator. Spurrier also went out and got 15 defensive players as part of his 2015 signing class. And before you think they're all a few years away from competing, go look at the number of junior college prospects in the class. Three of those juco signees -- defensive linemen Dexter Wideman and Marquavius Lewis and linebacker Ernest Hawkins -- will be on the field Saturday. Wideman and Lewis could be instant impact players in the trenches, where South Carolina struggled last season, finishing last in the SEC in sacks.