COLUMBIA -- The quarterback has never started a game.
The presumed starter at tailback missed two weeks during the preseason and will come off the bench because of a disciplinary issue.
The offensive line will play without its veteran left tackle.
But if there is one thing South Carolina's offense can be sure of as it kicks off the season tonight against N.C. State, it is this:
For the 30th consecutive game, Kenny McKinley will start at slot receiver and at some point he will catch a pass -- probably several of them.
McKinley, a senior from Mableton, Ga., enters his final season in close range of all the Gamecocks' major receiving records. If McKinley maintains his average of the past two seasons, he should pass Sterling Sharpe on the all-time receptions and receiving yards charts by the end of September.
But McKinley has a chance to tie a mark tonight that might speak loudest about the makeup of the player who arrived at USC in 2005 as a converted high school quarterback and will leave as one of the conference's receiving greats.
A catch against the Wolfpack would give McKinley at least one reception in 34 consecutive games, tying the mark held by Sharpe (1985-1987) and Jermale Kelly (1997-2000). Only two active players have longer streaks -- Rice's Jarrett Dillard (36) and UNLV's Casey Flair (35).
In putting together his streak, McKinley first had to answer the bell in 33 straight games -- no small feat given his lean, 6-foot, 187-pound frame and penchant for running crossing routes and slants into the teeth of the defense.
McKinley has not missed a game at USC because of injury, playing through the pain of a toe injury during much of the 2006 and 2007 seasons. That comes as no surprise to Shane Queen, who never worried about his backup quarterback the four seasons he started McKinley under center at South Cobb High.
"Kenny was the type of kid, he had to be on the field," Queen said. "If he was able to run, if he had to limp or whatever, he was going to be on the field."
McKinley claims he missed only one play in four years at South Cobb, following a run against Marietta his junior year.
"I went through the middle, got hit in the knees. You know you get hurt, you lay down, you've got to come out a play. So, I had to come out a play," McKinley said.
"My dad didn't really want me to go back in. He was like, 'Hey, man, you hurt? You've gotta stay out.' I was like, 'Nah, I can't let my team down.' So I went back in."
Queen, now the coach at North Cobb High, does not remember the specific play, but doesn't doubt the veracity of the story.
"I like his grit," Queen said. "He's got like an old-school mentality. I've seen coach (Steve) Spurrier bring him in motion and block people. I've seen him go across the middle and make some unbelievable catches. He's just a throwback guy."
McKinley said he was less than 100 percent by the end of last season as his right big toe continued to get more painful.
"I couldn't push off coming out of my routes," he said. "So, that really impacted me to go ahead and get surgery."
The injury did not hurt his performance. Starting with a career-best night at Tennessee (14 catches for 151 yards), McKinley caught at least seven passes in each of the Gamecocks' final four games and finished with a school-record 77 receptions.
If there was a silver lining to USC missing a bowl game, it was that it allowed McKinley to have surgery, during which doctors placed a screw near McKinley's toe, shortly after the Clemson game and hastened his recovery. After sitting out spring drills, McKinley said his toe has felt good this summer.
Besides McKinley's toughness, Queen said there was another reason he stayed healthy in high school.
"He didn't get hit," Queen said. "He was so elusive. He didn't take a direct hit. As much as he ran around, we were worried."
South Cobb used a mix of run and pass with McKinley, who "made people look silly" when he would take off from the pocket, Queen said. The coach recalled a McKinley scramble against North Cobb in which he zigzagged for 50 yards.
"It was a 17-second play," said Queen, who had one of his assistants time it when they reviewed the game tape. "It was a 50-yard play, but it took 17 seconds for them to corral him. He had people running into each other, and one kid missed the tackle twice."
That elusiveness served McKinley well during his switch to receiver at USC. There have been bigger (Sidney Rice) and faster (Troy Williamson) Gamecock receivers who are in the NFL, but neither matched McKinley's ability to avoid press coverage at the line of scrimmage and find open spots in the defense.
"I don't really think you can just jam him up at the line," USC linebacker Jasper Brinkley said. "It's very difficult because when he comes off the line, he's got some technique he does -- make you reach for one side and then he goes to the other side."
McKinley has not had a game with fewer than three receptions since catching two passes against Vanderbilt midway through the 2006 season. With all the records in his sight, McKinley said he is most proud of the fact that he is on track to graduate next year with a degree in retailing.
McKinley could return to school next summer if he leaves school in the spring to prepare for the NFL combine and draft.
But first thing's first: McKinley has a final college season to enjoy, with lots of passes -- and history -- to haul in.
• What: N.C. State at USC
• TV: ESPN (cable channel 25 in Rock Hill)
• Time: 8 p.m.
• USC keys to victory, key matchup and injury report • 3C