NC State opens this year against South Carolina, in a game that may well set the tone for the early part of the year: get a win against an SEC opponent to open the season, and the Wolfpack has set the table to possibly go 6-0 in their first half of the year.
That in mind, I like to keep an eye on the Gamecocks, and it looks like their defensive roster and rotation may be in turmoil. Considering that the Gamecock offense was anything but powerful last year, and that they may not see dramatic improvement this season, any problem with their D weakens their whole squad even more than normal. Tony Barnhardt writes:
I’m starting to get a little concerned about the South Carolina defense: Six starters were set to return from a defensive unit that kept the Gamecocks in most games while the offense was doing very little. The holes created by the losses of CB Captain Munnerlyn, a player I really liked, SS Emmanuel Cook, and LB Jasper Brinkley were going to be tough enough to fill. Now DT Ladi Ajiboye, who has started 22 games, and sophomore cornerback C.C. Whitlock, who was contending for a starting spot, have now been suspended. Ajiboye, from Riverdale, Ga., was arrested and charged with marijuana possession. Whitlock is a sophomore who played in nine games last season. Coach Steve Spurrier would only say that Whitlock had not been adhering to team requirements but reports say there are academic issues involved. I think Ajiboye has a chance to eventually get back after going through a diversion program. Don’t know about Whitlock. Spurrier’s not saying.
I expect that at a minimum, Ajiboye will be back. There are suspensions and then there are losing games, something that not even the Ole’ Ball Coach can afford to do down in Columbia. C.C. Whitlock may be another story, as grades are out of the coaches’ hands, and if he can’t get it together in the classroom, he won’t be playing in Raleigh at the end of August. If that happens, the Wolfpack’s chances of getting an important opening game win go up at least by a little bit.