COLUMBIA - With the long, dull offseason barely a week old, South Carolina's remarkable 2013 season is still fresh.
The Gamecocks finished with their highest ranking, placed No. 4 in the Associated Press poll. They finished with their third straight 11-win season, their third straight bowl victory against the Big Ten, but also their third straight year without making it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
"Identical years," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier called them. Mostly, that's a good thing.
So how does South Carolina maintain its unprecedented success in 2014? With the departures of quarterback Connor Shaw, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and receiver Bruce Ellington, it won't be easy.
Here are the five biggest personnel questions the Gamecocks face over the long, offseason months ahead.
1) How will Dylan Thompson settle in as starting QB?
Over the next several months, you'll probably hear other names as candidates for South Carolina's starting quarterback job. Maybe Brendan Nosovitch. Perhaps Connor Mitch. Hey, what can go wrong with a South Carolina quarterback named Connor?
Oh, this will be fun. What's an offseason in college football without a good, American quarterback controversy?
Which is why I'm getting this out there, in print for everyone to see: I will believe a quarterback other than Dylan Thompson starts in the Gamecocks' opener against Texas A&M when I see it, not before.
South Carolina's victory at Clemson in 2012 with Thompson under center gives him serious credibility, as does the way he helped guide the team to a win at Fiesta Bowl champion Central Florida this season. Thompson struggled at times in 2013, finishing with an uneven four touchdown passes and three interceptions. It's understandable, given the impossibility of finding consistent rhythm with inconsistent playing time.
Ultimately, the eye test matters, and when the eye test is added to Thompson's track Srecord, there's every reason to believe South Carolina's quarterback position will be in good hands next season.
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