Just hours away from the opening Spring practice for the South Carolina Gamecocks, it is important to look at five (or so) players that need to impress Head Coach Steve Spurrier, or it might be too late to make an impact.
27-Victor Hampton, RS-FR Cornerback – Hampton was a highly touted defensive back from Darlington entering last season. He never saw the field in 2010.
Hampton looked very raw during fall practice last year, and despite the stuggles in the secondary, never even got a shot.
If he has committed himself to working hard, a question along with his character when he enrolled at South Carolina, he should see the playing field this season. However, if he has not developed as expected, playing football in the SEC might not be in Hampton’s future.
UPDATE: Hampton was suspended for the first day of practice for an academics violation. He is expected to return for the next practice. Just another part of Hampton’s long story.
9-Ace Sanders, SO Wide Receiver – You might be wondering why Sanders, who made a large impact as a true freshman, on this list.
In a group of tall wide receivers, Sanders is a lone speed threat enrolled at this point. Senior WR Jason Barnes, at 6-4, will get the first shot replacing Tori Gurley, but Sanders offers a different option.
Sanders will also need show that his performance as punt returner was a fluke. Sanders showed flashes of a difference-maker last year, this year he needs to show the consistency of a top-flight wide receiver.
14-Connor Shaw (SO), 11-Seth Strickland (RS-JR), 12-Andrew Clifford (RS-SO), 7-Dylan Thompson (RS-FR) – They are altogether, because they are all not named Stephen Garcia.
Garcia enters the spring as the starter, but Spurrier promised that he will give other quarterbacks a chance in the spring, following Garcia’s performance at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.
In the Spring this year, Spurrier wants one quarterback to take the control of the job, no matter who it is. At the end of the Spring, Spurrier wants to know who his quarterback is in the fall, not have a position battle loom over the Summer.
The guy is probably Garcia, but Spurrier will give all the quarterbacks a close look.
UPDATE: Shaw, Strickland, and Thompson now have the chance to take the job laid in front of them, following the news of the suspension of starter Garcia due to a violation of team rules dating back to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. Clifford and TE Mike Triglia were also suspended. All are expected to be reinstated in about a week.
Dalton Wilson, RS-JR, Fullback – Wilson will get the first shot to replace Patrick DiMarco, a player and a position that were underrated on this team.
The team likely will not realize how much DiMarco meant until they get on the field in September. While it will be hard to replace all of the roles DiMarco filled, Wilson will be an able player.
Wilson is a solid athlete, who might struggle adapting to the speed of the game initially, but can adjust. Sophomore Matt Coffee will also see some time at the position, especially in short-distance running opportunities.
Marcus Lattimore, SO, Running Back – I had to put an eye-opener on this list, and Lattimore is that guy.
Lattimore had as good of a freshman year as anyone could expect. He was the Gamecock offense in 2010.
However, now the rest of college football knows who he is, and will be the focus of defensive gameplans for the Gamecocks’ twelve opponents. This means that more than ever, he will have to show off his immense talent.
On some preseason Heisman Trophy watch lists, Lattimore is capable of winning it, proving he can duplicate the success of his freshman season. If not, he might join the list of freshman phenoms who could never match the early success.
There are some questions that will get answered when the full recruiting class is at practice in the fall (i.e. Jadeveon Clowney is at practice). However, making an impression in the Spring, especially with Spurrier, will go a long way towards any playing time in the fall.