Post Signing Day: 2012 offense outlook

With National Signing Day in the rear view mirror, we know most of the scholarship players that will comprise the 2012 South Carolina football roster. Like most years, we know who the starter will be at a specific position, but the reserves are battling for the right to be No. 2. But there will be plenty of healthy competition for starting jobs as well. Here is the outlook for the 2012 South Carolina offense:
QUARTERBACK: If everything had proceeded according to plan in 2011, Connor Shaw would be preparing for his first season as the starting quarterback. But Stephen Garcia's dismissal midway through the season thrust him into the top spot and he thrived, leading USC to a 6-1 record over the final seven games. Shaw's performance in 2011 - particularly the final three games against The Citadel, Clemson and Nebraska - make him the overwhelming favorite. The most intriguing battle will be the No. 2 job. Tanner McEvoy is 6-foot-6 and a great athlete, making him the best prospect for continuing the read-option scheme favored by Shaw. Seldom-used Andrew Clifford and Dylan Thompson have the ability to run, but are more accurately described as drop-back passers. Brendan Nosovitch was a prolific passer and runner during his high school career in Allentown, Pa. He is likely headed for a redshirt season.
2012 QB Roster - Andrew Clifford (RJr.), Tanner McEvoy (RFr.), Brendan Nosovitch (Fr.), Connor Shaw (Jr.), Seth Strickland (Sr.), Dylan Thompson (RSo.).
RUNNING BACK: Until further notice, this position still belongs to Marcus Lattimore, whose potential return from torn ligaments will be the biggest story when pre-season camp begins in early August. As long as he is healthy, Lattimore will be the No. 1 running back and will receive the bulk of the carries. However, he'll sit out spring practice, giving plenty of practice reps to Brandon Wilds (486 yards on 107 carries), the biggest surprise of the 2011 season, and possibly Kenny Miles or Eric Baker (assuming one or both return in 2012). Like Lattimore, Shon Carson is rehabbing from a serious injury suffered in the Week 2 win at Georgia that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. So many questions surrounding the No. 2 job has opened the door for incoming four-star freshman Mike Davis to seize the role in August. He certainly possesses the talent to achieve that goal. Kendric Salley sustained a knee injury during his senior season at Williston-Elko High. He appears headed for a redshirt season in order to give him time to heal up.
2012 RB Roster - Eric Baker (Sr.), Shon Carson (RFr.), Mike Davis (Fr.), Marcus Lattimore (Jr.), Kenny Miles (Sr.), Kendric Salley (Fr.), Brandon Wilds (So.).
WIDE RECEIVER: Alshon Jeffery, a potential NFL first-round draft pick, no longer casts a wide shadow over the other wide receivers, making for an interesting spring as several contenders battle to become Jeffery's successor. In the fall, a trio of talented newcomers led by Shaq Roland, Mr. Football in the Palmetto State, will join the fray. The key question is who will become USC's next productive tall receiver. We could move closer to an answer in the spring. Will it be a veteran like D.L. Moore or Lamar Scruggs, neither of whom has seen significant playing time in the last two years, or will it be a redshirt freshman such as K.J. Brent or Shamier Jeffery? Both showed flashes of their skills last August before the decision was made to sit them for the season to give them time to develop physically. USC doesn't lack for smaller, quicker receivers with Ace Sanders, Damiere Byrd, Nick Jones and possibly Bruce Ellington (if he returns to football) set to return in 2012. Without question, wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. has plenty of questions to answer before the 2012 season gets underway.
2012 WR Roster - K.J. Brent (RFr.), Damiere Byrd (So.), Bruce Ellington (RSo.), Jody Fuller (Fr.), Shamier Jeffery (RFr.), Nick Jones (RSo.), D.L. Moore (Sr.), Shaq Roland (Fr.), Ace Sanders (Jr.), Lamar Scruggs (RJr.) DeAngelo Smith (RJr.), Kwinton Smith (Fr.)
OFFENSIVE LINE: Could USC actually start as many as three freshmen along the offensive front in 2012? Yes. Without question, some young players must step up because USC is losing three seniors - RG Terrence Campbell, RT Rokevious Watkins and LT Kyle Nunn. Who will take their place? Redshirt freshman Brandon Shell is a good possibility at one of the tackle spots. True freshman Brock Stadnik enrolled in January with an eye on earning a starting job at tackle, as well. Shell and Stadnik will compete with Mike Matulis and Cody Gibson for the two spots. All we know at this point about the offensive line is T.J. Johnson will start at center (he has 40 career starts under his belt) and redshirt sophomore A.J. Cann is a favorite to start at left guard, where he started every game in 2011. Is Ronald Patrick ready to step up and assume a starting role? Good question. What about redshirt freshman Kyle Harris, who was listed on the bowl game depth chart as the backup left guard? In the fall, new arrivals Joe Harris and Cody Waldrop are expected to make their presence felt.
2012 OL Roster - Kaleb Broome (Sr.), A.J. Cann (RSo.), Kenny Davis (Sr.), Cody Gibson (RSo.), Joe Harris (Fr.), Kyle Harris (RFr.), T.J. Johnson (Sr.), Mike Matulis (So.), Ronald Patrick (Jr.), Brandon Shell (RFr.), Will Sport (RFr.), Brock Stadnik (Fr.), Clayton Stadnik (Fr.), Cody Waldrop (Fr.), Mason Zandi (Fr).
TIGHT END: By the time pre-season camp concludes in late August, this position could be one of the deepest on the team. It's already stocked with the reliable Justice Cunningham, who has fulfilled sort of a H-back role by lining up at fullback as well. The senior from Pageland, S.C., is an excellent blocker and usually catches the ball when it's thrown in his direction. Rory Anderson was a pleasant surprise in 2011 as a freshman with eight receptions, three for touchdowns, and proved himself as a blocker. Even though he was considered light (he is listed at 207 pounds) for an SEC tight end, Anderson was willing to mix it up with SEC defensive ends and linebackers. Drew Owens redshirted in 2011, but he is regarded as a talented prospect too, possibly giving USC a viable option at tight end. Kelvin Rainey enrolled in January with an eye on securing playing time in 2012. Right now, he and Owens will battle for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart unless they are able to unseat Anderson for No. 2. In the fall, the athletic Jerell Adams (three TD receptions in the 2010 Shrine Bowl) joins the program and he has the phrase "Another Jared Cook" written all over him.
2012 TE Roster - Jerell Adams (Fr.), Rory Anderson (So.), Justice Cunningham (Sr.), Drew Owens (RFr.), Kelvin Rainey (Fr.).
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D. McCallum