BTP: The Gamecocks finished 2016 with a 6-7 record and a loss to South Florida in the Birmingham Bowl. Despite that bowl loss, are there positives from last season that you see that can be carried over into this upcoming season?
DR: Oh for sure. Look, it was the middle of October before the Gamecocks scored three touchdowns in a single game in 2016. There was a carousel at QB and the offensive line couldn't keep anyone upright. Jake Bentley wasn't the only thing that changed that, but once he was named the starting quarterback, everything seemed to fall into place.
The secondary was great last year. Granted, they may not be as great this season but we get Skai Moore back at linebacker and that's nothing to sneeze at.
BTP: Although this is only Will Muschamp's second season in Columbia, what's the general consensus about him among the fan base?
DR: Hard to say. I think most people were scratching their heads or loudly cussing when he was announced as the new coach at the end of the 2015 season. I mean it became very public that Tom Herman, Kirby Smart and Rich Rodriguez were all interviewed for this job. Ending up with a guy that had already failed once as an SEC head coach was hard to swallow for some, but look, he got Carolina to a bowl game in year one and anyone that tells you they were expecting that is a liar. He is building recruiting back up and most importantly keeping pace with the rest of the SEC.
If I had to say something definitive, it is that the fan base is behind Muschamp now. He has shown that he is capable of being a successful head coach. Georgia and Florida are still clearly the class of the SEC East, but under Muschamp Carolina has closed the gap on a team like Tennessee, which is a big step in the right direction and that isn't lost on the fan base.
BTP: Heading into the season opener against the Wolfpack in Charlotte, what part of the Gamecocks roster concerns you the most?
DR: I am told to expect the offensive line to be much better and overall that may be the case, but I am genuinely worried about the ability to create holes for Turner and Dowdle or keep Bentley on his feet against a defensive front like NC State's.
BTP: Who is one player for the Gamecocks offense that the Wolfpack need to pay close attention to?
DR: Flip a coin between the receivers. Deebo Samuel has been on campus longer, so he has more fans and a longer history of making big plays, but I love what Bryan Edwards can do. He's 6'3 and averaged nearly 14 yards per catch as a true freshman, so that's my guy. Carolina was playing from behind in much of the Birmingham Bowl last year and that comeback would have been impossible if those two didn't combine for 20 catches and 261 yards.
BTP: On the NC State side of the field, who concerns you the most?
DR: I mean how can you not be worried about what that defense is capable of, particularly up front? Especially against an offense that has to take a huge step from last year if this is going to be a 7 or 8 win team.
BTP: Let's get a prediction - how do you see the season opener in Charlotte playing out?
DR: Are people outside of Raleigh going to read this? Because I live in Raleigh, so I know I am safe here. It's when I go to Columbia I may be attacked, because I think the Wolfpack will win this game. I wrote a piece for Garnet and Black Attack a few weeks back talking about how I wish Carolina did not have this game on their schedule this season because I think it is a borderline bowl team and can't afford any unnecessary losses.
As for how it will play out, I can see Bentley connecting on some big passes to Edwards and Samuel but he won't be able to do it enough to keep the Gamecocks on top for long. I still think this is relatively low scoring by modern college football standards, because both of these defenses are really good. I'll say NC State takes it 31-24.
Thanks again to Demetri for taking the time to answer our questions. Again, make sure to give him a follow on Twitter @DemetriRavanos.