Despite not having a player selected in the first two rounds of this year’s NFL Draft, South Carolina has been well-represented in training camps over the past month.
The temporary fate of six rookies was decided on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, when NFL teams cut down their rosters to 75 players. All six former Gamecocks got good news, and will remain with their squads — at least until teams cut down to 53-man rosters this coming Saturday.
Here’s a breakdown of each player’s situation:
MIKE DAVIS (Running Back)
Selected No. 126 overall (fourth round) by San Francisco
While he’s impressed coaches in camp, Davis has not been able to wiggle out of rookie hazing rituals. The Gamecocks’ leading rusher over the past two seasons was stuck with a $1,878 dinner bill after veterans took him to a Michael Mina seafood joint in mid-August, according to BleacherReport.com’s Kyle Newport.
On the field, he’s battling to keep his job. Either Davis or veteran Kendall Hunter will get the boot this coming weekend, SFGate.com’s Kevin Lynch wrote on Aug. 25 Recovering from an ACL injury, Hunter has not participated in any preseason action, whereas Davis has collected 80 yards on 19 carries (a 4.2-yard average).
DYLAN THOMPSON (Quarterback)
Signed as an undrafted free agent by San Francisco
While Colin Kaepernick is locked in as the 49ers’ starter, Thompson is one of only three quarterbacks on the roster (along with former Missouri standout Blaine Gabbert).
Most NFL teams keep four QBs around before the final cut day, so Thompson has a small chance to keep his spot — or at least make the practice squad — when 53-man cuts are decided upon.
The Gamecocks’ single-season passing leader has also had the chance to play with Davis and former teammates Bruce Ellington and Rory “Busta” Anderson this summer.
“It’s really been unbelievable,” he told TheState.com’s Matt Connolly this past weekend. “I think all (last) week at practice I’ve thrown a pass to Bruce, handed off to Mike and then completed one to Busta all in a day-or-twos time here and that’s just cool to do. You know you do it all the time at school but doing it at this level and having fun with the guys you’ve been around for four or five years is pretty neat.”
A.J. CANN (Guard)
Selected No. 67 overall (third round) by Jacksonville
The former Gamecocks lineman seems like a safe bet to make the Jags’ roster. On Tuesday, Jacksonville.com’s Ryan O’Halloran projected Cann to be one of nine offensive linemen the team keeps for the regular season.
Cann was also named one of Jacksonville’s “not-so-obvious” players to watch by ESPN.com’s Mike DiRocco on Aug. 21.
“The 6-foot-3, 313-pound Cann has been good in the run game, which is his strength, and has held his own as a pass-blocker,” DiRocco wrote. “His presence has been good for [veteran Zane] Beadles because it has pushed him to be better.”
Perhaps the best sign for Cann? Jacksonville has not cut a third-round pick before the regular season in the franchise’s 20-year history.
DAMIERE BYRD (Wide Receiver)
Signed as an undrafted free agent by Carolina
The 5-foot-9 wideout snagged his first pro catch on Aug. 14, and then followed that with his first touchdown on Aug. 22. In three games, he’s snagged five catches for 58 yards, with his longest reception stretching 18 yards.
He got a boost on Tuesday when the Panthers surprisingly cut wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, who previously excelled with the Green Bay Packers. That leaves eight wideouts on Carolina’s roster.
Byrd is still likely to be axed by Saturday, according to RantSports.com’s Jason Fletcher, but there’s a chance he survives because fellow pass-catchers Devin Funchess and Jerricho Cotchery are currently dealing with injuries, and the position is one of the team’s weaker spots.
RORY “BUSTA” ANDERSON (Tight End)
Selected No. 254 overall (seventh round) by San Francisco
Playing with Davis and Thompson in northern California, the former Gamecocks standout has a strong chance of sticking with the 49ers. The team’s tight end group currently has five players (not counting Xavier Grimble, who’s primary role is long snapper), but his measurables have people talking
“Anderson is a seventh-round pick, which certainly doesn’t guarantee him making a roster,” NinerNoise.com’s Peter Panacy wrote last week. “Yet it’s also hard to ignore his 6’5″, 244-pound frame. He’s fast for his size and fits the mold for a developmental talent teams so frequently covet.”
If he doesn’t make the team on Saturday, there’s still a good chance San Francisco will consider Anderson for their practice squad, in which case he’d need to clear waivers — and could potentially land elsewhere.
COREY ROBINSON (Offensive Tackle)
Selected No. 240 overall (seventh round) by Detroit
Results have been mixed for Robinson, who has had trouble protecting the Lions’ quarterbacks.
Last week, MLive.com’s Kyle Meinke wrote that Robinson “has had an up-and-down camp, and that’s putting it lightly. One could say he has been bad.”
Still, Meinke went on to mention that Detroit’s trade of lineman Michael Williams could mean that Robinson will stick with the Lions. And head coach Jim Caldwell had some nice things to say in the same story.
“He has length, athleticism, you know, all of those kinds of things… can move his feet,” Caldwell said. “Got a huge upside and … it’s just time, experience, but we like what we see.”
— By Alex M. Smith, Special for The Atlanta Journal-Consitution