Prior to the start of preseason camp, we posed four pressing questions that would need to be answered prior to the start of South Carolina preparation. Through tw0-a-days heat and August grind, those questions have since been answered. With Thursday marking exactly one week until kickoff against the Gamecocks, we take a look back at those preseason questions and which evaluate which have been answered and which are still in limbo.
Jordan Rodgers had a strong preseason.
Question: Is there a quarterback battle?
Answer: Decidedly No.
Jordan Rodgers has separated himself as the clear starter heading into the season, showing poise and confidence as a leader and as a passer. Steadily throughout camp, Rodgers looked more and more comfortable with the offense and the point of emphasis of improving his completion percentage seems to be paying off.
Carta-Samuels certainly had his moments in the preseason and he definitely provides a very good backup option for James Franklin’s staff, as does possible redshirt Patton Robinette who took to the offense quickly in the preseason. Those two have a lot of promise but this season looks to be one that will be captained by Rodgers.
Question: How good is this backfield?
Zac Stacy had a preseason that you would expect out of one of the nation’s top backs. There is no reason to think he won’t continue to build on a historic rushing effort last season. This season it appears he will have even more help.
Warren Norman seems to be quite comfortable darting in and out of traffic and hasn’t shown any ill-affects from the knee injury that sidelined his 2011 campaign. In fact, Norman never needed donned the red jersey to limit his action and he appears to be ready for the pounding of an SEC schedule.
Along with the two proven veterans, freshman Brian Kimbrow provided all the spark we had hoped to see when the four-star signed with the Commodores. He will add a speed and big play dimension to the offense. Jerron Seymour also had some great moments in the preseason and if you add Kris Kentera’s matchup ability out of the backfield catching passes, this group looks to be every bit as good as anticipated.
Question: What freshman will make the biggest early impact?
With the announcement that Herring, Kimbrow and Azubike would be the only three freshman that were guaranteed not to redshirt, James Franklin made it clear that those three would be expected to make an impact and have already proven capable.
Kimbrow has been gaining meaningful reps with the first team from day one of camp and continues to be a big part of the offensive gameplan. Herring has made himself an integral part of the defense, particularly with the departure of Tristan Strong from the linebacking corps. Herring may not start from day one but he has shown the instincts to be much more than just a reserve defender. You can expect Azubike to get plenty of third down reps early in the season due to his pass-rushing ability and his freakish athleticism. As the season progresses and he gains a confidence and comfort level. That role will only increase.
Question: Who is this year’s Chris Marve?
Answer: To be determined
Jordan Matthews proved throughout camp that he is ready to step up and take on a real leadership role on offense but Marve’s role on the defense was invaluable and that is where the void needs to be filled.
There are plenty of long-term options with a great group of freshman linebackers including Herring but for this year’s team early on it may take a group effort. Archibald Barnes is the most senior player in the linebacking corps and he had a very strong camp particularly in the run game. His leadership will be crucial as will the leadership of Chase Garnham who missed much of preseason with injury. We may see several different players shuffled in and out of the linebacker group early in the season as the bell cow of the group continues to find his way.