Kurt Roper will have his work cut out for him as South Carolina’s new offensive coordinator.
Gone from last year’s 3-9 squad are the top two pass-catchers (Pharoh Cooper and Jerell Adams) and leading rusher Brandon Wilds.
Cooper led the Gamecocks with 66 catches for 973 yards and eight touchdowns. He also rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. An All-SEC first-team wide receiver, Cooper was a fourth-round NFL draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams.
The New York Giants used a sixth-rounder to take Adams, who was second among South Carolina pass catchers with 28 catches for 421 yards and three touchdowns.
Wilds finished third in receptions with 17 catches for 142 yards. He was also the Gamecocks’ leading rusher with 123 carries for 567 yards and three touchdowns.
Backup running back Shon Carson was productive during his senior season, logging 52 carries for 297 yards along with four total touchdowns.
Wilds, Cooper and Carson accounted for over half of South Carolina’s rushing yardage and touchdowns in 2015. That same trio, along with Adams, combined for 115 of the team’s 191 catches and more than 60 percent of its total receiving yards for the season.
Needless to say, play-making Gamecocks are in high demand these days. Here are five potential players who could emerge under Roper in 2016:
WR Bryan Edwards – Freshman
The former 4-star recruit from Conway, S.C. enrolled at South Carolina in January and was immediately listed as one of the team’s starting three wide receivers. Edwards enjoyed a productive spring, which he capped with a pair of touchdown catches in the spring game. At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, he has the size to emerge as a red zone threat and an option in the vertical passing game.
TE Hayden Hurst – Sophomore
Before joining the Gamecocks as a walk-on wide receiver, Hurst spent a couple of years as a pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. Hurst, who will turn 23 before the season starts, was placed on scholarship earlier this spring. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound tight end is expected to be have a productive second season. As a freshman, he caught eight passes for 106 yards.
QB Lorenzo Nunez – Sophomore
Coach Will Muschamp will give Nunez every opportunity to win the starting quarterback job when preseason camp begins in August. If he doesn’t, it’s probably safe to assume that Roper will come up with a few ways to keep Nunez involved. As a freshman, Nunez was South Carolina’s second-leading rusher with 59 carries for 375 yards and two touchdowns.
WR Deebo Samuel – Redshirt Sophomore
The South Carolina coaches are all in on the idea that Samuel is ready to emerge as the team’s top playmaker. After all, he is the team’s top returning wide receiver. After missing most of the season because of injuries, Samuel was a problem for Clemson last November, catching five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown against the Tigers.
RB David Williams – Redshirt Junior
After averaging 5.7 yards per carry in 2014, Williams proved less effective as a redshirt sophomore, rushing for 299 yards on 86 carries (3.5 yards per carry). He’s also a receiving threat out of the backfield. Not counting former walk-ons, no other running back on the Gamecocks roster has appeared in a college game.