Hale McGranahan/SEC Country
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp

5 key things to watch in the South Carolina spring game

Hale McGranahan

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina is playing the annual Garnet & Black Spring Game on Saturday afternoon at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Kickoff is at noon ET.

SEC Country will keep an eye on several players and storylines throughout the afternoon.

First-year players

Freshman wide receiver OrTre Smith was not wearing a yellow jersey earlier this week when reporters were invited to watch practice. Smith was limited for the first part of spring ball as he neared the end of his recovery from a high school ankle injury. Plus, Smith was said to have been a full participant during the most recent stadium scrimmage.

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Smith could cross paths with a couple of defensive backs who are new to the team. Safety Jaylin Dickerson is among the most talked-about players of the spring. The other, former Clemson cornerback Kaleb Chalmers, is working with the second-team defense.

Offensive lineman Summie Carlay also participated in spring practice.

Ty’Son Williams

A transfer running back from North Carolina, Williams split first-team reps all spring with sophomore Rico Dowdle, South Carolina’s top returning rusher from 2016.

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Dowdle isn’t expected to see a heavy workload. It’s not clear how much run Williams will get, but there’s anticipation surrounding his public debut. Williams, a sophomore, received rave reviews since his arrival and he’s expected to have a major role this season.

Those two, along with A.J. Turner, Mon Denson and Caleb Kinlaw, are expected to make for a formidable rushing attack in 2017.

Last year’s redshirts

Most of the freshmen who redshirted last year were linemen. Saturday will serve as public debut for Griffin Gentry in the Buck position, or hybrid linebacker-defensive end; and defensive tackles Stephon Taylor and Aaron Thompson, both of whom are going to be counted on heavily by coach Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks defensive coaches.

Those three could cross paths with three redshirt freshmen offense: Sadarius Hutcherson, who remains in competition for the starting left tackle job, and interior linemen Pika Leota and Will Putnam.

Senior linebacker Skai Moore is nursing an ankle injury, but everything appears to be just fine with his surgically repaired neck. South Carolina’s light load of linebackers might lead one to believe Moore will play a lot on Saturday. Then again, Moore could be among the established players who don’t see much action.

Special teams

Clean snaps, good holds and true kicks are the goal as the Gamecocks see how their new kickers, punters and long snappers perform. All eyes will be on kicker Alex Woznick and punter Michael Almond, the favorites to win those respective jobs.

Health and happiness

Injuries are a part of football, so there’s a risk every time you step on the field. But nobody wants to see a player go down in the spring game.

As long as everyone stays healthy, Saturday will be considered a successful spring game.