Hale McGranahan/SEC Country
CB Steven Montac had 28 tackles and 2 forced fumbles in the last five games last season.

South Carolina’s breakout candidates for 2017

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Despite being blanked in most All-SEC teams announced after last season, the Gamecocks are getting some much-deserved respect leading up to the 2017 campaign.

RELATED: Pair of Gamecocks named preseason All-SEC by Athlon Sports 

Athlon Sports named WR Deebo Samuel and TE Hayden Hurst as first-team All-SEC.

“Hayden Hurst and Deebo Samuel were staples of an emerging South Carolina football offense in 2016,” wrote SEC Country’s Mike Wilson. “Now, the duo is expected to take big leaps forward to boost the Gamecocks more in 2017.”

With QB Jake Bentley back under center, there’s no reason to think the two won’t continue to wow.

But who else could make enough noise in 2017 to earn their own spot on the All-SEC team? The depth chart appears full of candidates.

Skai Moore-South Carolina-South Carolina football
LB Skai Moore (10) has led the Gamecocks in tackles every season he’s been on the field. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

Certainly rising sophomores RB Rico Dowdle and WR Bryan Edwards showed flashes of their All-SEC talent in 2016. Could TE K.C. Crosby take advantage of Hurst getting extra attention in the middle of the field?

UNC transfer RB Ty’Son Williams has been turning heads since his time on the practice squad in 2016 and looked like an All-SEC back in the spring game.

Should LB Skai Moore return to form (and all indications are he will), he’ll have a strong case. Cornerbacks Steven Montac and Mark King both had standout moments in 2016.

In conclusion, Hurst, Samuel and Bentley may be the only players receiving all-conference attention this offseason, but make no mistake, the Gamecocks have plenty of young talent ripe to break out in 2017.

Running off to college

Three-star RB Deshaun Fenwick, who committed to the Gamecocks in early May, announced he’ll be enrolling early …

The Bradenton, Fla., native picked the Gamecocks over offers from Georgia, Missouri, Ole Miss and Texas, among others.

‘… He’s been through the process’

Josh Vann-South Carolina recruiting
WR Josh Vann is rated as the No. 96 overall prospect in 247Sports composite rankings for the Class of 2018. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

Four-star WR Josh Vann was impressed with South Carolina when he visited earlier this year for junior day — singling out the massive dorms, good food and academics.

RELATED: 4-star WR Josh Vann has close connection with Gamecocks assistant 

But beyond the off-the-field amenities, the Tucker, Ga., native seems to be a fan of South Carolina wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon.

“He tells me that he’s been through the process. Doesn’t want to bother you too much. Just tries to get you on the phone every now and then. He just tries to connect with you in different ways possible.”

Survive and advance

South Carolina baseball-Tyler Johnson
Closer Tyler Johnson fanned 8 in 4 1/3 innings on the mound on Tuesday. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

South Carolina baseball refused to let its season end on Tuesday.

The Gamecocks rallied to top the Commodores, 7-4, in 11 innings.

RELATED: South Carolina baseball advances with extra-inning win against Vanderbilt 

“It gives us a chance to take a deep breath,” said skipper Chad Holbrook. “Now, we are in the double-elimination part of it. We are going to be one of eight teams playing. Everybody is going to be 0-0. It’s a good win for us. We have had some tough ones. I’m not disappointed with our team. We played some pretty darn good baseball. We’ve had some things not go our way.”

South Carolina moves on to play No. 7-ranked Kentucky on Wednesday.

Take a bow

South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton announced on Tuesday that his basketball career has come to a close due a lingering injury.

RELATED: TeMarcus Blanton ends basketball career 

While it’s a major bummer to see Blanton’s playing career come to close, there is a silver lining in this — the junior guard will remain a part of the basketball program in an off-court role.

“#Gamecock4Life” indeed.

Offer out

Fresh off the heels of a run to the Final Four, the Gamecocks and coach Frank Martin have their collective eye on the future of South Carolina hoops — reportedly offering 2017 PG Jalen Carey on Tuesday.

The 4-star guard already boasts offers from a who’s who of college hoops elite, including Kansas, Florida, Indiana and UConn, among others.

With New York native Rakym Felder producing encouraging early returns for the Gamecocks in 2016-17, it’s no surprise the Gamecocks went back to the New York area for Carey.

South Carolina basketball-South Carolina Gamecocks-SEC Basketball-2017 NCAA Tournament-Rakym Felder-Duke
New York native Rakym Felder (4) played a major role in the Gamecocks’ run to the Final Final last season. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Moving on

South Carolina women’s basketball assistant Nikki McCray-Penson will be named the head coach at Old Dominion, according to Ed Miller of The Virginian-Pilot.

RELATED: South Carolina women’s basketball assistant headed to ODU 

“McCray-Penson, who’s been on Dawn Staley’s staff at South Carolina since 2008, played 11 seasons in the WNBA, where she was a three-time all-star,” wrote SEC Country’s Hale McGranahan. “At Old Dominion, McCray-Penson will replace Karen Barefoot, who is now the head coach at UNC Wilmington.”