South Carolina’s 2016 season proved a mix of success and failure at the same time. But one thing was clear above the rest: The Gamecocks have a lot to be excited about for the future.
With that in mind, we take a closer look at what South Carolina brings back in 2017:
**SEC Country’s Hale McGranahan contributed to this report
Jake Bentley – Sophomore – 6-3, 223
Brandon McIlwain – Sophomore – 6-0, 205
South Carolina graduates Perry Orth, but returns the two players who saw the bulk of playing time in the final 9 games of the season. Bentley, obviously, is the guy, but what role McIlwain has should be interesting.
Rico Dowdle – Sophomore – 5-11, 211
Ty’Son Williams – Junior – 6-0, 220
A.J. Turner – Sophomore – 5-10, 195
Of all the positions on offense, the competition might be the most intense at running back. Dowdle flashed a lot when he got healthy and has a great combination of skills. Williams, a UNC transfer, drew nice reviews from the scout team and could be a backup, while Turner provides a great change of pace and showed he has home-run ability.
Deebo Samuel – Junior – 6-0, 205
Randrecous Davis – Redshirt freshman – 5-10, 181
Bryan Edwards – Sophomore – 6-3, 210
OrTre Smith – Freshman – 6-3, 215
Chavis Dawkins – Sophomore – 6-2, 200
Terry Googer – Junior – 6-4, 220
South Carolina brings back Samuel as its No. 1 wide receiver with bigger options across the board at the other spots. Edwards is locked in as a starter, while Dawkins at times flashed as a freshman. Smith could make an early impact and Davis figures to have a role, as he was used regularly when healthy.
Hayden Hurst – Junior – 6-5, 250
K.C. Crosby – Junior – 6-1, 227
Kiel Pollard – Sophomore – 6-0, 230
Jacob August – Junior – 6-6, 248
Hurst could be one of the best tight ends in the nation next season. South Carolina has a nice position group here. The Gamecocks often employ two tight end sets, something that should be seen again next year as Crosby proved to be a good weapon.
D.J. Park – Senior – 6-4, 330
Sadarius Hutcherson – Redshirt freshman – 6-4, 273
The lone position on the offense to lose a starter is left tackle, as Mason Zandi graduated. Who replaces him appears to be a race between Park and Hutcherson, who were the next two in bowl practices. Hutcherson drew some good comments at that time from his teammates.
Zack Bailey – Junior – 6-6, 315
Christian Pellage – Junior – 6-6, 305
Bailey is South Carolina’s best offensive lineman and a powerful dude at the guard position. He’s an anchor of the offense as a whole.
Alan Knott – Senior – 6-4, 290
Chandler Farrell – Redshirt freshman – 6-2, 280
Knott returns in the middle, while Farrell was talked about highly early in fall camp. He should be a reliable backup in the middle, while Cory Helms also can play center.
Cory Helms – Senior – 6-4, 310
Donell Stanley – Junior – 6-4, 325
Stanley began the season as the starting right guard before an ankle injury sidelined him. Helms began at center with Knott missing the season opener. That goes to say, there are some options between right guard and center that new offensive line coach Eric Wolford can explore.
Malik Young – Junior – 6-3, 300
Blake Camper – Junior – 6-8, 300
Young took over at the right tackle spot after Stanley and Camper went down with injuries. He had his ups and downs. There should be a battle here as Camper looked decent when healthy.
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Dante Sawyer – Senior – 6-3, 275
M.J. Webb – Freshman – 6-2, 270
Among the returning defensive ends, Sawyer is easily the most experienced for the strong-side. Webb, one of the six mid-year enrollees, will push for a spot on the two-deep depth chart on day one of spring practice. Other options include redshirt sophomore Shameik Blackshear and redshirt freshman Aaron Thompson.
D.J. Wonnum – Sophomore – 6-4, 240
Boosie Whitlow – Redshirt Sophomore – 6-3, 240
Wonnum, one of several 2016 signees to avoid a redshirt, recorded 32 tackles and 1.5 sacks as a freshman. He’ll be counted on to provide a pass rush threat in the place of Darius English, who started at the “Buck” position last season. Whitlow redshirted after playing a true freshman a year earlier. Redshirt sophomore Daniel Fennell also should work into the mix.
Taylor Stallworth – Senior – 6-2, 310
Keir Thomas – Sophomore – 6-2, 265
Stallworth, the Gamecocks’ best defensive lineman in 2016, will be a candidate for preseason All-SEC honors. The team’s defensive tackle rotation will be stronger this season, and another offseason for Thomas will help make that happen.
Ulric Jones – Senior – 6-5, 300
Kobe Smith – Sophomore – 6-2, 305
Jones was credited with 42 tackles last season, which saw him emerge as a regular contributor. Smith also flashed towards the end of the season. Fellow 2016 signee Stephon Taylor is likely to carve out a spot now that his surgically-repaired shoulder is healed.
Bryson Allen-Williams – Senior – 6-0, 230
South Carolina’s second-leading in tackler (75) in 2016 was also credited with 8.5 tackles for loss. Because there are so few returning linebackers, the two-deep depth chart won’t be fully populated with scholarship players until the fall.
Skai Moore – Senior – 6-2, 220
Sherrod Pittman – Redshirt Sophomore – 6-0, 225
After leading the Gamecocks in tackles during his freshman, sophomore and a junior seasons, Moore was forced to sit out 2016 because of a neck injury. His expected return will add a shot of life to defense that could feature as many as eight senior starters.
T.J. Brunson – Sophomore – 6-1, 225
The only linebacker signed by South Carolina in 2016 avoided a redshirt and worked primarily on special teams. He’s expected to have a larger role as a sophomore, even after the four 2017 signees arrive later this summer.
Chris Lammons – Senior – 5-10, 190
Rashad Fenton – Junior – 5-10, 190
South Carolina’s coaches named Lammons the Most Productive Player on Defense in 2016. He was one of three players to finish the season with 3 interceptions. Fenton was productive during his time at the nickel cornerback spot, where he’ll likely compete again this fall.
Jamarcus King – Senior – 6-2, 180
Kaleb Chalmers – Redshirt Sophomore – 6-0, 180
King’s first season at South Carolina had plenty of ups and downs, but the good certainly outweighed the bad. He tied for the team lead with 3 interceptions. Chalmers, a junior college addition who began his career at Clemson, will compete for a starting cornerback job in 2017.
D.J. Smith – Senior – 5-11, 195
Keisean Nixon – Junior – 5-10, 180
Smith, who led the Gamecocks with 80 tackles last season, also recovered 2 fumbles and grabbed an interception. Nixon could end up playing a number of different positions in the secondary. Though it’s to be determined where exactly that will be, the need for help at safety is greater than cornerback.
Steven Montac – Junior – 5-11, 190
Jaylin Dickerson – Freshman 6-0, 170
Montac bounced around the defensive backfield, working at safety and nickel. He’ll have to fend off several freshmen in 2017, including Dickerson, a 3-star mid-year enrollee from Southern Pines, N.C.
Alex Woznick – 5-11, 160
Woznick was impressive in fall camp during the open practice segments. He will be in line to take over and fill the big shoes – pun intended – of Elliott Fry.
Michael Almond – Redshirt sophomore, 6-3, 222
When Sean Kelly sat out the bowl game, it was Almond who was the choice as punter. He booted the ball well that day and should be in line for the starting spot.
Nick McGriff – Junior – 6-0, 225
As was the case with kicker and punter, South Carolina is replacing a long-time starter at long snapper as Drew Williams graduated. McGriff could be the player at the ever-important long snapper spot.