Some pundits are touting South Carolina's 2012 squad as possibly the best team in school history. That remains to be seen, but there's no doubt that the SEC East is wide open, and the Gamecocks have as good of a shot as anyone at winning the division.
We asked our friends with South Carolina-centric site Leftover Hot Dog to fill us in on some of the details about the upcoming season for the 'Cocks.
1. Give us the lowdown on Marcus Lattimore and his recovery. Any guesses as to his share of the carries this year?
Marcus Lattimore is fine and very close to 100 percent. He has been limited in preseason practices but as the featured back that is common at USC to avoid injury.
In 2011, the Gamecocks leaned heavily on Lattimore and his abilities to grind up yards. He averaged around 23 carries a game. This will not be the case in 2012 as the Gamecocks have a very deep stable of running backs. Look for Lattimore to get 15-18 carries a game and the additional load to be spread amongst Kenny Miles, Shon Carson, Brandon Wilds and maybe Mike Davis.
2. Cornerback Akeem Auguste is returning after a season cut short in 2011 by a foot injury. How important is his presence in a rebuilding secondary?
The Gamecocks need him as the depth in the secondary is a concern. Auguste is a senior and the Gamecocks not only need his abilities but his leadership too. Having him as one of the lockdown corners in 2012 would be a big boost for USC as they fight their way through the SEC.
3. Alshon Jeffrey had his ups and downs in college, but there was no denying his talent at receiver. Who will be the biggest threat in the passing game this year?
Honestly it is hard to say as the stage is open. The question is who will step up and help the passing game.
The likely suspects are Ace Sanders or Damiere Byrd. But the Gamecocks have a stud freshman receiver in Shaq Roland and he could be the go-to guy, but he is just a true freshman, so you don’t want to expect too much from him.
One area to watch in regards to this question is the tight ends unit as the Gamecocks are loaded there and you could see some two-tight end sets. Maybe a Jerrell Adams or Drew Owens becomes the threat.
4. Can we safely assume Connor Shaw is the man under center, or do you foresee a scenario where Steve Spurrier could go back to quarterback-rotating ways?
No. The keys to the offense belongs to Connor Shaw as long as he stays healthy. If he gets hurt then the dreaded rotating of QBs could emerge. But in Connor Shaw, Gamecock Nation trusts.
5. Give us a reason to believe South Carolina is the team that can end the SEC West's current run on top of the conference?
Since I have to go with just one reason I will say the play of the lines. On both offense and defense, the Gamecocks line play is poised to have the ability to win the trench battles every game out. As everyone who knows college football will say, if you can control the line of play then you have a strong likelihood to win ball games.
The USC offensive line is deep and has the big bodies needed to win in the SEC. The defensive line, well, two names should sum it up – Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. Enough said.