The South Carolina Gamecocks enjoyed another outstanding season in 2012, although there was only a relatively small payoff. South Carolina slipped up twice, losing narrowly to LSU in Death Valley and then getting blown apart by Florida in Gainesville in consecutive weeks in October. However, South Carolina did finish the season on a five-game winning streak (after starting the season on a six-game streak).
The Gamecocks had never won 11 games before these last two seasons under Spurrier, and the trip to do it again begins in March.
It remains to be seen whether South Carolina can replicate those efforts on the field in 2013. The Gamecocks will lose a lot of players on both sides of the football, and they'll also have plenty of competition within the SEC East from Florida and Georgia once again. Add in an absolutely ferocious start to 2013 with North Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt all lined up in the first three weeks of the season and the Gamecocks could know the extent of their national championship hopes pretty early.
Spring practice start date: March 5
Spring game date: April 13
Approximate returning starters: South Carolina will be losing nearly half the starters from its 11-win team. The Gamecocks are returning seven starters on offense and five starters on defense, but one significant returner is quarterback Connor Shaw, one of the most efficient passers in the SEC. Also returning are South Carolina's two leading receivers in Bruce Ellington and Ace Sanders as well as four of the five offensive linemen.
Biggest of all, star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney returns, as do three of four Gamecock secondary defenders.
Biggest addition: There will be three early enrollees for the Gamecocks and a new defensive line coach for South Carolina by way of North Carolina.
Biggest loss: The Gamecocks lose both their starting running backs in Marcus Lattimore and Kenny Miles. They also have to deal with the issue of losing all three of their starting linebackers from last year's class, which means there will be plenty of competition for these positions (and few clear favorites) going into spring camp.
South Carolina also lost defensive line coach Brad Lawing to Florida.
New players? One of those early enrollees is quarterback Connor Mitch, considered one of the top pro-style quarterback prospects in this class. Mitch could try and make a go at the two-deep with Dylan Thompson and Seth Strickland positioned right in front of him. Others coming in include cornerback Ronnie Martin and offensive lineman D.J. Park.
New coaches? The Gamecocks hired Deke Adams away from North Carolina to replace Lawing as the defensive line coach. Adams has coached under Larry Fedora the past several seasons at North Carolina and Southern Miss and now gets to work with Clowney.
New schemes? South Carolina will probably not deviate much from its current strategies on both sides of the football, although with the departure of the team's top two running backs, the Gamecocks might turn a bit more to Shaw to open things up on offense. Additionally, South Carolina will have to put many new parts together on defense, but keep an eye out for Clowney to roam the field even more, as Spurrier teased last summer.