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South Carolina Football Preview
Football  . 

South Carolina Football Preview

Aug. 9, 2017

It’s year two of the Will Muschamp Era at South Carolina. The Gamecocks will look to continue the building process that begin last year when the team improved its win total by three over the 2015 campaign and returned to the postseason with a trip to the Birmingham Bowl.

With just a taste of success, the Gamecocks enter 2017 hungry for more.

Carolina opens its fall camp in a much better position than they were at the same time a year ago. The staff remains nearly intact, while the players have a better understanding of the effort, toughness and discipline that Coach Muschamp and his assistants demand each and every day. Another offseason in the weight room with strength & conditioning coach Jeff Dillman should also begin to reap benefits.

The on-field coaching staff has just one new face, and his is a familiar one in Columbia. Offensive line coach Eric Wolford returns to South Carolina, replacing Shawn Elliott, the only holdover from the Steve Spurrier Era, who was named the head coach at Georgia State. Wolford coached the Gamecocks’ offensive line in 2009 under Coach Spurrier but left after one season to assume the head coaching position at Youngstown State. Most recently, he has worked in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers.

Forty-two letterwinners, including 16 starters (10 on the offensive side of the ball and six on defense), return to open fall camp. In addition, the Gamecocks welcome the return of All-SEC senior linebacker Skai Moore, who sat out 2016 with a neck injury but led the team in tackles in each of the three previous seasons, and add sophomore running back Ty’Son Williams, who redshirted last season after transferring from North Carolina.

Key losses from last year’s squad include left tackle Mason Zandi, defensive ends Darius English and Marquavius Lewis, and linebackers T.J. Holloman and Jonathan Walton along with record-setting placekicker Elliott Fry and punter Sean Kelly.

With the SEC Eastern Division looking to be a wide open race again this year, the Gamecocks figure to be among the teams in the conversation to represent the East in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. However, another challenging schedule awaits, including a slate that includes the eighth-toughest non-conference schedule in the country, according to one national pundit.

The Gamecocks open the 2017 schedule with a challenging non-conference neutral site game, as they will take on NC State in the Belk College Kickoff Game in Charlotte on Saturday, Sept. 2.

The SEC opener comes in week 2 when the Gamecocks travel to Columbia, Mo. to face the Mizzou Tigers. Carolina’s seven-game home slate gets underway the following week when the Gamecocks host Kentucky in a second-straight SEC Eastern Division matchup.

Hall of Fame Weekend will be punctuated when the Gamecocks host Louisiana Tech in a non-conference matchup on Sept. 23. It will be the first contest between the two schools since 1995. The Bulldogs are led by former South Carolina assistant coach Skip Holtz.

The Gamecocks next two contests will be against their cross-division opponents from the SEC West. Carolina will travel to College Station to face Texas A&M to close out the month of September, then host Arkansas on Oct. 7 for the annual Parents’ Weekend clash.

South Carolina’s next four games are all against SEC Eastern Division foes, beginning with an Oct. 14 date in Knoxville against the Tennessee Volunteers. After the season’s lone off weekend, Carolina will host Vanderbilt on Oct. 28 as the school celebrates Homecoming, travel to Athens for a rare late-season showdown with the Bulldogs, then wrap up the conference slate on Nov. 11 with a home tilt against Florida.

The regular season concludes with a pair of home non-conference games against in-state opponents. Wofford comes to Columbia on Nov. 18, then South Carolina and Clemson will renew its Palmetto State rivalry at Williams-Brice Stadium on Nov. 25.