Three starting defensive backs from the 2017 South Carolina football team must be replaced, and several of the potential successors are pretty green.
Coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson are set to begin their quest to figure out who will start in place of safeties Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith and cornerback JaMarcus King.
Some of the candidates have yet to play a down of college football.
The first 5
In this pre-spring look, we’ll go with five defensive back positions: Two safeties, two cornerbacks and a nickelback.
The projected first team is relatively experienced.
Senior Steven Montac is the most experienced safety. During the last two seasons, he has played a little bit of everything in the Gamecocks defensive backfield, but safety is his likely landing spot in 2018. In 10 games last season, he had 19 tackles and 3 interceptions.
Former walk-on wide receiver Javon Charleston appeared in every game last season and was credited with 6 tackles. For his career, the redshirt junior has worked primarily on special teams.
Junior college transfer Keisean Nixon began last season at safety before Muschamp shifted him to cornerback. Most of Nixon’s work came in the bowl game against Michigan, but he made the most of his limited opportunities in 2017, recording a pair of interceptions.
Rashad Fenton was one of the top performers on the team in 2017, especially early on in the season. As a junior, the cornerback had 48 tackles and was second on the team with 8 pass breakups. He also had an interception.
As a freshman, Jamyest Williams mostly played nickelback, but did see a couple of snaps at safety. He had 38 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 2 interceptions.
Here’s where things start getting dicey. That’s not a knock on any of the players listed below. It’s just that none of them have played a snap for the Gamecocks.
Safety Zay Brown traveled with the team during his first year on campus but redshirted. His position group grew by one in January when 3-star recruit R.J. Roderick enrolled at South Carolina.
Roderick’s classmate, 3-star prospect Israel Mukuamu, will get his first look at cornerback, where he joins redshirt freshman Tavyn Jackson and redshirt sophomore Korey Banks, a converted wide receiver.
Walk-on cornerback Jaylan Foster has college experience. In 2016, he was named Big South Freshman of the Year at Gardner-Webb, after logging 45 tackles, 9 pass breakups and 5 interceptions.
Jaylin Dickerson would’ve avoided a redshirt last season if not for a shoulder injury. The redshirt freshman will be out this spring as he continues to recover from it.