The SEC recently announced its decision to move forward with a 10-game, conference-only football season this fall due to the coronavirus. This change results in the Gamecocks adding both Auburn and Ole Miss to their schedule for the upcoming year.
With all of the uncertainty and chaos that 2020 has brought, the SEC has found a way to give fans football this fall. With this being announced right around the time students migrated back to Columbia, the excitement and anticipation is high.
Gamecock students are ready for football, however it may look this season.
Second-year economics student Austin Martin said he believes it will be a more difficult year because the team will not have “easier games" against smaller schools.
On the other hand, first-year international business student Lynzee Havert said she thinks the more challenging season will be good for the team.
“If you want to be a good team, you have to play against good teams," Havert said.
The Gamecocks' schedule features the defending national champion LSU Tigers as well as other perennial powerhouses such as the Georgia Bulldogs and Auburn Tigers.
While the schedule is tough this season, first-year business student Ross Greenhill said the Gamecocks have “continued to have a pretty tough schedule” in recent memory.
Second-year geography student Jake Karbowniczak also said that the team has seemed to perform better as an "underdog," such as last years' victory over Georgia.
Second-year hospitality student Graham Buckner said he believes the development of sophomore quarterback Ryan Hilinski is going to be a big factor on whether the team can successfully manage this schedule. This year is a “big season for him,” according to Buckner.
Second-year sports and entertainment management student Chase Mlecz echoed that sentiment by saying he wants to see “more of what we saw in the first half against Alabama" from the young quarterback. Hilinski ended that particular contest with 324 yards passing along with two touchdowns despite falling to the Crimson Tide handily.
Greenhill said he believes in the "upside" of Hilinski and that for him to have success, the young wide receivers are going to have to take on a larger role. The loss of Bryan Edwards to the NFL draft is virtually irreplaceable, but the team has some young and talented receivers on its roster who could break out.
The loss of true freshman running back Marshawn Lloyd to a torn ACL this preseason also makes it much more vital for the passing game to be effective. Lloyd was expected to carry a good size workload in the backfield. Both sophomore Kevin Harris and redshirt sophomore Deshaun Fenwick should see an uptick in touches due to the injury.
Lloyd was one of the highlight recruits from what Mlecz describes as a "great recruiting class," so his loss really hurts. However, the Gamecocks still gain defensive end Jordan Burch, quarterback Luke Doty and several other highly ranked prospects.
This recruiting class will have many unprecedented challenges coming in during this unique season but will look to make an immediate impact on the field.