COLUMBIA — South Carolina will hold its first practice of preseason camp Aug. 2, and Gamecocks fans will have three opportunities to get a look at head coach Will Muschamp’s squad before the season opener.
The Gamecocks on Friday released their schedule for the preseason, consisting of 29 practices before the season kickoff Sept. 1 at Vanderbilt. Three sessions will be open to the public: those on Aug. 15, 16, and 17, all scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. at USC’s practice facility.
USC players report Monday, Aug. 1, with the first practice of preseason camp scheduled for the following day at 8:15 a.m. The Gamecocks will open with four split-squad practices separating veterans and newcomers before the first day in full pads on Aug. 6.
South Carolina has scheduled scrimmages for Aug. 13 and 20, both closed to the public. Fan appreciation day is scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 21, at a site still to be determined.
The Gamecocks return 12 starters from last season’s squad, which went 3-9, and had former head coach Steve Spurrier resign at midyear. Muschamp’s goals in the preseason include shoring up the secondary, improving team speed to take advantage of USC’s special teams, and finding a starting quarterback.
Freshman Brandon McIlwain and senior Perry Orth enter as leaders at quarterback, although Orth missed half of spring practice with a broken collarbone on his non-throwing shoulder. Orth started eight games last season, while McIlwain received the bulk of snaps in the spring and tossed two touchdown passes in the spring game,
Preseason will also be when Jake Bentley, a highly-touted prospect who graduated high school a year early, joins the quarterback competition. The son of USC running backs coach Bobby Bentley passed for 2,800 yards and 28 touchdowns last season as a junior in high school, and has been on USC’s campus working out over the summer.
Quarterback is one of fours spots on USC’s preseason depth chart where two players are knotted for the starting position. Camp will be where starters are also deteremined at linebacker, in the secondary, and at tight end, among others positions.
“We make decisions as far as who’s going to be the quarterback, who’s going to be the running back or who is going to play defensive end, who helps us win right now?” Muschamp said at SEC Media Days. “That’s the bottom line, and that’s what we plan on doing.”