After a 28-0 loss to Virginia in the Belk Bowl, the Gamecocks are turning to the offseason to prepare for fall 2019. South Carolina finished its 2018 season at 7-6 overall with a 4-4 record in the SEC.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Gamecocks were challenged with multiple injuries throughout the season. Six true freshmen were on the field several times during the second half of the Belk Bowl.
Despite putting up 600 yards of offense in back-to-back games, for the first time in school history against Chattanooga and against one of the nation's best defenses in Clemson, quarterback Jake Bentley and the South Carolina offense could not find a rhythm against Virginia.
South Carolina finished the Belk Bowl with 43 rushing yards, 261 total yards and over 17 minutes of time of possession, which are all season lows.
"It was tough, and then not executing down in the red zone, that's always a tough thing to swallow," Bentley said. "We've just got to be better. We've just got to go back and work and remember this feeling."
The Gamecocks lost to five ranked opponents in 2018, with four of those opponents finishing in the top 15 in the final AP poll.
The 2019 schedule will arguably be tougher, as South Carolina will play Alabama, Georgia and Clemson, who are each expected to be in the preseason top five. The Gamecocks will also play Florida, Kentucky and Texas A&M.
South Carolina has not beaten Kentucky since the 2013 season and has never beaten Texas A&M. Texas A&M is also currently one of the top five recruiting classes.
According to 247sports.com, South Carolina currently sits at 21 in the recruiting rankings for 2019 after the early signing period. This is subject to change after National Signing Day on Feb. 6.
The Gamecocks have 20 commits, with 19 having already signed their national letters of intent.
“We’ve recruited well,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “We’ve got a lot of good players coming back. We had a really good signing class in December. We are going to add about thirteen of those guys to our roster in January.”
Quarterback Ryan Hilinski, defensive end Zacch Pickens and cornerback Cameron Smith are among the recruits who signed early in December.
Hilinski is a four-star out of Orange, California, and participated in the All-American Bowl and the Pro Football Hall of Fame World Bowl.
Pickens was named South Carolina Mr. Football for 2018 and the South Carolina Football Gatorade Player of the Year for 2018. Pickens also participated in the Under Armour All-America Game and the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. Smith participated in the All-American Bowl and the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas.
With the upcoming season bringing new players, it is also bringing some coaching changes for the Gamecocks.
Thomas Brown was hired on Jan. 9 to coach South Carolina’s running backs. Brown was a running back at Georgia and a teammate of Bryan McClendon. Bobby Bentley, former running back coach for South Carolina, will be moved to coach the tight ends. Pat Washington, who previously coached the tight ends, will not return.
Muschamp is expected to have to fill another spot on the coaching staff. Defensive line coach Lance Thompson announced that he will not return after three years with the Gamecocks.
South Carolina will look to build its young team with new recruits coming in for the 2019 season. Muschamp has become the South Carolina coach with the most wins in the first three seasons.
"Are we better from day one?," Muschamp said. "It's night and day. It's a hundred percent better. The future is extremely bright."