During one practice last fall, backup quarterback Corey Jenkins misread a play and then badly overthrew a pass to the wrong receiver. That immediately drew the ire of coach Lou Holtz, who got in Jenkins's face. "How can you be a quarterback and not know how to throw the ball?" Holtz screamed. "You will never, ever play quarterback at the University of South Carolina!"
Less than a year later Jenkins, a senior, is the Gamecocks' starting quarterback. With the graduation of Phil Petty, Holtz turned to Jenkins, a 25-year-old former outfielder in the Red Sox and White Sox organizations. Jenkins isn't the only new face: After a 9-3 season and back-to-back bowl victories for the first time in school history, South Carolina lost 13 starters and is in a transition year. "We've got a lot of question marks this year," Holtz says. "This is the kind of season I like."
Though he can throw the ball more than 70 yards, the 6'2", 222-pound Jenkins has struggled at times. (He threw three interceptions the first week of spring practice.) In Holtz's conservative multiple scheme, Jenkins, who has 4.5 speed, will often take the ball and run. That's when he's not handing off to senior running backs Andrew Pinnock (6 feet, 250 pounds) or Ryan Brewer, who anchor what should be a punishing ground game.
On defense the Gamecocks have a lot of holes to fill. Seven starters, including five who were NFL draft picks, are gone from a unit that carried the team the last two years, ranking sixth in scoring defense in 2000 and 12th in '01. (The offense was 72nd in scoring both years.) Sophomore defensive end George Gause, who had a team-high 10 tackles in South Carolina's Outback Bowl victory over Ohio State, has emerged as the defense's star, but he'll need help.
Jenkins, for one, isn't worried. He says his side can pick up the slack. "I've told the defense they're allowed to give up 21 points a game," Jenkins says. "The offense will take care of the rest."