2016 Season Preview

OK, so last year didn't go as I expected. Instead of fielding an improved defense under Hoke and beating our 7-win total in 2014, the Gamecocks were one of the worst teams on defense in the entire country and finished dead last in the conference, racking up fewer conference wins than Vanderbilt. Change was required and change is what we got. I may have been one of the few who really liked the Muschamp hire at first. I'll admit that my initial reaction was disappointment, though, but then I remembered how keen I was after 2014 to get him on board as DC and HCIW. This will be the first time since I was in high school that our head coach wasn't an AARP member. I'm looking forward to seeing what a little more energy and engagement can bring.

Muschamp hired the best assistant coaching corps the Gamecocks have ever had. I think the defensive staff are some of the best in the country, and the offensive guys are perfect for the state of South Carolina. Right of the bat these guys proved their worth on the recruiting trail, and we pulled in some immediate help that we would have had no chance with otherwise. Jamarcus King will likely be starting CB after a few games and Kier Thomas will get on the field to improve pass rush from the middle of the line. Keeping Bryan Edwards and Brandon McIlwain in the fold was crucial, and both those guys will be starters this year.

Regardless of how well signing day went in February, the 2016 Gamecocks are a team with serious flaws. The loss of Skai Moore hurts, but the recent news that Rico McWilliams is quitting football may hurt more given the lack of depth at DB. Somehow we're going to have to get through the season with 3 serviceable CBs. I expect us to be better on defense this year, because we basically couldn't get any worse. On offense improved QB play and some young WRs stepping up should make that side of the ball better as well.

Here's my predictions for the season:

@ Vanderbilt - W

@ Mississippi State - L

East Carolina - W

@ Kentucky - W

Texas A&M - L

Georgia - L

UMass - W

Tennessee - L

Missouri - W

@ Florida - L

Western Carolina - W

@ Clemson - L

So, I've got us at 6-6 overall and 3-5 in the conference. I predict the Gamecocks to finish 4th in the East. This is a very uninteresting and safe projection. I should say that we'll lose won we shouldn't, and win one we shouldn't, but given our depth at DB I think the former is more likely than the latter. What I expect to see this year with such a young team and this coaching staff is continuous improvement from week to week. 6 wins should lay the foundation for a strong recruiting finish, more practice time in December, and higher expectations for 2017. Go Cocks.