COLUMBIA — South Carolina's football team will enter a crucial season in 2020.
The first step is less than a month away.
The Gamecocks begin spring practice on Feb. 26 and hope to discover a blueprint for a substantially improved season by April 4, which is when spring drills conclude with the Garnet and Black Spring Game. Coach Will Muschamp will enter his fifth year and is coming off a 4-8 season. He has revamped his coaching staff and now must fill key positions on his roster.
Defensively, the Gamecocks are all right. Seven starters return, and the other four have played so much they might as well have been starters.
But there are questions on offense and special teams. USC has to replace the most prolific wide receiver in school history (Bryan Edwards) and one of the best punters it’s ever had (Joseph Charlton).
A battle should be waged between sophomore Kevin Harris and true freshman MarShawn Lloyd for starting running back duties in the spring, while a backup needs to be discovered for starting tight end Nick Muse, who will miss spring after knee surgery. An intriguing option will be on hand in transfer Adam Prentice, a hybrid fullback/H-back who can also play tight end and learned under new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo at Colorado State.
On the line, USC has experience. Sadarius Hutcherson turned down the NFL for another season at USC while Jaylen Nichols, Jakai Moore and Jovaughn Gwyn have all cross-trained in each spot on the line during their careers.
They’ll all be in front of returning quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who should be in top shape after minor offseason knee surgery. A backup needs to be settled, with another Colorado State transfer, Moore native Collin Hill, a candidate along with true freshman Luke Doty.
Projected spring depth chart
(returning starters in caps)
Quarterback — RYAN HILINSKI, So.
Running back — Kevin Harris, So.
Wide receiver — SHI SMITH, Sr.
Wide receiver — OrTre Smith, RJr.
Wide receiver — JOSH VANN, Jr.
Tight end — Will Register, RJr.
Fullback — Adam Prentice, RSr.
Left tackle — Jaylen Nichols, So.
Left guard — Sadarius Hutcherson, RSr.
Center — Hank Manos, RSo.
Right guard — JOVAUGHN GWYN, RSo.
Right tackle — Jakai Moore, RFr.
Buck defensive end — Brad Johnson, RJr.
Defensive end — AARON STERLING, Sr.
Defensive tackle — Keir Thomas, RSr.
Defensive tackle — Zacch Pickens, So.
Strongside linebacker — Jahmar Brown, So.
Middle linebacker — ERNEST JONES, Jr.
Weakside linebacker — SHERROD GREENE, Sr.
Cornerback — JAYCEE HORN, Jr.
Nickel — JAMMIE ROBINSON, So.
Safety — R.J. RODERICK, Jr.
Cornerback — ISRAEL MUKUAMU, Jr.
Punter — Christian Kinsley, RSr.
Kicker — PARKER WHITE, Sr.
Holder — Christian Kinsley, RSr.
Long snapper — Matthew Bailey, RFr.