South Carolina Football: 5 things to watch during the Garnet and Black Spring Game

South Carolina football plays its annual Garnet and Black Spring Game on Saturday. What should fans be looking for as they watch?
South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer
South Carolina football coach Shane Beamer / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK
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South Carolina Football's 5 Things to Watch During the Spring Game:
Defensive Sets and Personnel Usage

Last season, defensive coordinator Clayton White's unit was really struggling in USC's traditional 4-2-5 defense, so the Gamecocks began utilizing a 3-3-5 look more often as the season went along. By the end of the year, the 3-3-5 was used more frequently than the 4-2-5, and the Carolina defense played its best ball down the stretch in the new scheme.

According to White, this spring, the defense has had a "50-50" split so far in their usage of the two primary defensive sets. Will that continue on Saturday?

It should be expected that both the 4-2-5 and the 3-3-5 will be seen in the spring game, but what might be a more telling observation to make will be the personnel usage. Though the two teams will have a mixture of potential starters and definite reserves, players will be played in positions where they are most likely to be utilized this season.

For example, Bam Martin-Scott and Jaron Willis both got significantly more playing time late in the 2023 season as the Gamecocks used the 3-3-5 more often. The shift allowed Debo Williams to play a more traditional Mike (instead of a 4-2-5 Mike, which sometimes isn't even a Mike at all) as more athletic players like BMS and Willis played sideline to sideline and had plenty of linebacker blitzes dialed up for them in passing situations.

The safety rotation will be interesting to monitor, as well. Jalon Kilgore, Nick Emmanwori, and DQ Smith all played snaps at safety and nickel last season, and Kilgore was the primary nickel at season's end. Will that continue this year, or will Kilgore move back to his more natural spot at safety? The spring game might provide a glimpse toward that answer.

The defensive line rotation will be worth noting, as well, especially in watching which of the defensive tackles kicks out to end in the 3-3-5, which ones stay inside, and which ones do both.