Hale McGranahan/SEC Country
Kaleb Chalmers is one of the former JUCO players being counted on in 2017.

The Gamecocks are counting on JUCO players and transfers to add depth, experience to roster

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

After finding some serious defensive back talent among the junior college ranks the past two years (Mark King, Kaleb Chalmers, Keisean Nixon) the Gamecocks have their eye on a JUCO talent on the other side of the ball.

South Carolina recently offered Nixon’s Arizona Western College teammate, TE Dominick Anderson.

“Alabama, Arizona State, Auburn, Oregon and TCU are counted among the offers for Anderson, who’s listed at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds,” reports Hale McGranahan.

The interest in Anderson is indicative of a larger trend from USC’s football program: Its growing interest in JUCO players and transfers.

RELATED: Gamecocks offer another 2019 WR, former teammate of Keisean Nixon

The Spurrier era saw only a few JUCO players and transfers make their way to Columbia. Linebackers Jasper and Casper Brinkley (JUCO), DE Marquavius Lewis (JUCO), DB Isaiah McKenzie (Kansas) and P Sean Kelly (FAU) come to mind, but it was rare to see the HBC’s Gamecocks reach into JUCO talent pool, even more rare to see a player transfer to USC.

South Carolina-Caleb Kinlaw-Mon Denson-Ty'Son Williams
Caleb Kinlaw (34) and Ty’Son Williams (27) are two transfers to watch in 2017.

Fast-forward to 2016, when Will Muschamp inherits a roster that’s in desperate need of experienced talent. Seeing depth as a major issue, Muschamp looks to junior college players and transfers as a way to bring his new team back to national prominence. Doubling their win total in his first season at the helm, one could say Muschamp’s method is working.

In 2017, the Gamecocks’ roster will include several JUCO players, former players from big-time FBS programs such as Clemson, Wisconsin and North Carolina, as well as the reigning Big South Freshman of the Year from Gardner-Webb.

Exciting times in Columbia, especially when Muschamp is bringing in experience and a blue-chip prospect such as CB Jamyest Williams.

Mr. College Football sees big things for Gamecocks

South Carolina-Jake Bentley-South Carolina football
Count ESPN’s Tony Barnhart among those impressed by QB Jake Bentley’s rookie campaign.

ESPN’s Tony Barnhart spoke highly of the Gamecocks as they look to build off an encouraging 2016 campaign.

RELATED: ‘Trajectory is all going up’ for South Carolina football, ESPN’s Tony Barnhart says

“At the end of the Spurrier time, they didn’t really have a bunch of guys who could make plays,” Barnhart said. “If I’m South Carolina, I’m encouraged. Now, they’ve gotta build the program. They’ve gotta get better on the offensive and defensive line and they’ve gotta get the program to a point that on a day like today there’s more than 12 NFL scouts here. That’s the goal.”

Barnhart continued on to say how impressed he was with QB Jake Bentley, particularly his ability to adjust and change protections at the line.

Praise for Thornwell

Yahoo Sports broke down the 68 best players in the 2017 NCAA Tournament on Tuesday, with one of our own earning a lofty ranking.

The Dagger, Yahoo’s college hoops blog, tabbed F Sindarius Thornwell as the No. 23-best player in the dance.

“Thornwell is an outstanding perimeter defender on a team full of just that, and a high-efficiency, high-volume scorer on a team otherwise devoid of just that. The 6-foot-5 wing won SEC Player of the Year over Malik Monk, and finished .001 points behind Monk for the conference scoring title.”

A couple of notes: PG PJ Dozier and Marquette star freshman G Markus Howard are noticeably absent. Check out the entire rankings here.

Obama’s predictions for South Carolina

No matter your political affiliation, having a vote of confidence from an ex-president as you head into the big dance is pretty cool.

RELATED: Obama with mixed predictions for South Carolina basketball teams in tournament

Former President Barack Obama released his NCAA bracket on Tuesday — with a mixed bag of picks for the Gamecocks …

Obama called for Marquette to top South Carolina in the first round of the men’s tournament, while predicting a Final Four run from the Lady Gamecocks.

ESPN backs Staley

South Carolina women’s basketball-Dawn Staley
Dawn Staley has a major bone to pick with the selection committee. (Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

The Network has sided with Dawn Staley in the coach’s gripe with the selection committee over the Gamecocks’ regional location.

RELATED: South Carolina women’s basketball in Stockton ‘just not right,’ says ESPN 

“I get it,” wrote ESPN’s Charlie Creme. “Baylor can get to Oklahoma City in a bus. South Carolina and its fans have to fly to either Oklahoma or California. That’s the rationale, but it’s just not right. If this were the first year the Gamecocks were facing extensive travel, it would be more understandable. It isn’t.”

Creme continues to laud Carolina’s accomplishments, noting the Gamecocks boast a much more impressive résumé than fellow-No. 1 seed Baylor.

With UNC-Asheville on deck for Friday night at Colonial Life Arena, this is likely the last we’ll hear of the regional controversy.

Former USC pitcher turning heads in Spring Training

Former South Carolina RHP Jordan Montgomery is making waves in his fourth year in the Yankees’ system.

The lanky right-hander caught the eye of Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi during Spring Training.

“I’m glad I made a good first impression,” Montgomery told The New York Post. “It seems like everything is up for grabs this year, so I wanted to come out here and throw my best. That way, I’d be on everybody’s minds — or at least in the back of their minds — so they know who you are if they need someone up there.”

The Big Spur believes Montgomery has a case to be New York’s fourth starter this season.

Throwback Thursday

With reports that South Carolina has reached out to Coastal Carolina about playing a game (to make up for USC’s two canceled contests), let’s go long for #TBT with Christian Walker’s unforgettable 3-run blast (and underrated bat flip) against the Chanticleers in the 2010 Super Regionals.

Walker’s shot put the Gamecocks ahead for good — helping them advance to Omaha, where they ultimately won their first national championship.