HOOVER, Ala. — Nothing really gets answered until Aug. 31, when South Carolina takes on North Carolina in the season opener. Even then, it’s only a couple of solutions with a lot more problems being created.
But it’s talkin’ season, and Will Muschamp and three of his Gamecocks head to Hoover Wednesday to finish the third of the four-day SEC Media Days. The fourth-year coach will doubtless hear most if not all of the following five questions, several times apiece.
1. WHAT WILL THE OFFENSE LOOK LIKE?
The Gamecocks unveiled an up-tempo, exciting offense last year, although it took until midseason for it to gel and then conked out in the final six quarters. When it worked, though, the Gamecocks threw the ball down the field, scored points and were in control. Returning a senior quarterback, senior wide receiver and three senior running backs, the chance is there for a better, more consistent Take 2.
2. WHO’S (THE NEW) NO. 1?
As good as the offense could be, it is missing its most explosive playmaker. Deebo Samuel is gone.
Bryan Edwards returned punts last year, and USC has no shortage of speedy guys who can catch a kickoff and try to get past the 25-yard-line. But who’s the receiver who can always get open on third-and-forever and outrun any defense to the goal line?
3. DID METHODS CHANGE?
When there’s a season where 22 players miss at least two games and 10 others miss at least one, of course there are going to be raised eyebrows about what exactly is going on in conditioning and practice.
Muschamp put it simply. They practice and train the same way they have in years past, when injuries weren’t a problem, and the injuries weren’t so much as numerous as they were all happening at the same spots (defensive line and secondary). Still, maybe there was a tweak or two over the summer to try and preserve everybody they possibly can.
4. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT YOUR SCHEDULE?
The Gamecocks have what many label the toughest schedule in the country. There were breathless questions to Muschamp during his summer speaking circuit about how he would handle it.
“It’s tough every year,” he said, and he wasn’t being a jerk about it. What did folks expect him to say? That yeah, USC will be lucky to go 6-6 and he goes home every night and cries under the pillow?
It’s a cliché but accurate — the Gamecocks have to play one game at a time. Gulping at potential hardships now loses the battle before it ever begins.
5. HOW HOT IS THE SEAT?
There has been progress shown. No doubt.
But how much is enough to feel good, and how much needs to happen this year?
Muschamp has won more games in his first three years than any USC coach. Recruiting is going well. That’s outstanding progress considering how abysmal the Gamecocks were when he took over.
There are the detractors, though — there’s just the one AP Top 25 win in three years, and getting skunked by Virginia in the Belk Bowl sure didn’t create a merry offseason.
What’s progress this year? Is a bowl game enough? Does USC have to beat one of the five (some rank six) Top 25 teams on the slate? Is it as simple as beating Kentucky for the first time in six years?
All to be answered and perhaps raised again going into 2020.