Over the final couple of weeks of the summer, SEC Country has taken a close look at each position on the South Carolina depth chart.
Now it’s time to look forward.
Here is a projection of the Gamecocks depth chart as we approach preseason camp, which begins on Aug. 2.
Starter: Perry Orth (Sr.) OR Brandon McIlwain (Fr.)
Backup(s): Jake Bentley (Fr.), Lorenzo Nunez (Soph.)
Position breakdown: During Will Muschamp’s four-year run at Florida, there was much criticism about the way he handled the Gators quarterbacks. Muschamp is faced with a significant race in year one at South Carolina. Orth and Bentley exited the spring as the co-starters, even though Orth’s spring was cut short by a shoulder injury. McIlwain was impressive in the spring game, passing for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Bentley entered into the picture when he re-classified from the 2017 signing class to the 2016 haul. Nunez is now on the fringe of the battle since he’s been cross-training at wide receiver.
Starter: David Williams (Jr.)
Backup(s): A.J. Turner (Fr.), Mon Denson (Fr.), Rico Dowdle (Fr.), C.J. Freeman (Fr.)
Position breakdown: Williams looked like a capable SEC running back during his first season of action, but he regressed in 2015. Still, he entered and exited spring ball as the starter. Turner isn’t far behind. If all goes according to plan, the duo will provide a one-two punch for the Gamecocks first-year offensive coordinator, Kurt Roper. Denson, who redshirted last year, was around for the spring, along with Freeman, a mid-year enrollee. Dowdle will have a shot to compete with those two for the No. 3 spot.
Starters: Deebo Samuel (Soph.), Jamari Smith (Jr.), Bryan Edwards (Fr.)
Backup(s): Matrick Belton (Sr.) Terry Googer (Soph.), Christian Owens (Fr.), Javon Charleston (Fr.), Korey Banks (Fr.), Randrecous Davis (Fr.), Chavis Dawkins (Fr.), Kiel Pollard (Fr.)
Position breakdown: On an offense full of youth and inexperience, the wide receiver position is the least experienced of them all. Samuel missed much of last season to injury, before capping the year with an impressive outing against Clemson. Smith has bounced back and forth between a couple of positions, and Edwards was in high school at this time a year ago. Googer and Owens are the only other scholarship wide receivers who were around under the previous coaching staff.
Starter: Hayden Hurst (Soph.) OR K.C. Crosby (Soph.)
Backup(s): Kyle Markway (Soph.), Robert Beal (Fr.), Evan Hinson (Fr.)
Position breakdown: Hurst emerged last season after joining the team as a walk-on wide receiver. The former pitcher in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization will be counted on as a major contributor in 2016, along with Crosby, who’s yet to catch a pass at South Carolina. Chances are favorable that one of the two freshmen will see action this fall.
Starters: Mason Zandi (Sr.), D.J. Park (Jr.)
Backup(s): Malik Young (Soph.), Blake Camper (Soph.), Akeem Cooperwood (Jr.), Sadarius Hutcherson (Fr.)
Position breakdown: Zandi’s played a lot over the course of his career, but most of his work was either at right tackle or tight end. Now, as he heads into his final season, he’ll be in the spotlight at left tackle. On the other end of the line is Park, who was a highly-recruited prospect out of high school. The South Carolina staff is pleased with the progress he’s made since their arrival.
Starters: Zack Bailey (Soph.), Cory Helms (Jr.)
Backup(s): Christian Pellage (Soph.), Donell Stanley (Soph.), Pika Leota (Fr.)
Position breakdown: Bailey and Helms combine to make guard the best, most experienced position on South Carolina’s offense. Bailey appeared in all 12 games last season, making five starts. Helms, a Wake Forest transfer, is now eligible to play after sitting out last season. Their backups, Pellage and Stanley, could be reliable, too. However, Pellage is likely to miss time this season after his offseason arrest for DUI.
Starter: Alan Knott (Jr.)
Backup(s): Cory Helms (Jr.), Will Putnam (Fr.)
Position breakdown: Knott is third among the returning players and first among offensive players with 17 career starts. Helms is expected to start at right guard, but can provide relief behind Knott. Bailey played some at center last season. Putnam is expected to redshirt in 2016.
Starters: Marquavius Lewis (Sr.), Daniel Fennell (Fr.)
Backup(s): Darius English (Sr.), Boosie Whitlow (Soph.), Shameik Blackshear (Soph.), Keir Thomas (Fr.), Darius Whitfield (Fr.), Aaron Thompson (Fr.), D.J. Wonnum (Fr.), Griffin Gentry (Fr.)
Position breakdown: Lewis is expected to be the guy on the strong side of the line. Down, distance and situation will dictate how Muschamp will employ the other ends this season. Muschamp’s BUCK position is a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker who could play with his hand on the ground or standing up. English and Whitlow are among the many options to play the BUCK position, while Thomas showed this spring that he’s got a shot to win the job as Lewis’ backup.
Starters: Kelsey Griffin (Sr.), Taylor Stallworth (Jr.)
Backup(s): Abu Lamin (Sr.), Dante Sawyer (Jr.), Ulric Jones (Jr.), Kobe Smith (Fr.), Dexter Wideman (Fr.), Stephon Taylor (Fr.)
Position breakdown: Griffin and Stallworth are the most experienced interior defensive linemen. Behind the listed starters, it’s a wide-open race. Smith showed flashes during spring practice, after enrolling in January. Taylor, one of the most highly-recruited signees in the Gamecocks 2016 class, could find a spot in the rotation, too.
Starters: Jonathan Walton (Sr.), T.J. Holloman (Sr.), Larenz Bryant (Sr.), Bryson Allen-Williams (Jr.)
Backup(s): Jalen Dread (Fr.), Sherrod Pittman (Fr.), T.J. Brunson (Fr.)
Position breakdown: Even with Skai Moore’s season-ending injury, the linebacker position has two experienced players in Walton and Holloman, both of whom have been relatively productive at South Carolina. Bryant and Allen-Williams were both highly recruited out of high school, but neither have quite lived up to the hype. One of the two redshirt freshmen will have to be ready to contribute as a backup. Brusnon, the lone linebacker take in 2016, might be in line to avoid a redshirt, to help provide some depth.
Starters: Rico McWilliams (Sr.), Chris Lammons (Jr.)
Backup(s): Rashad Fenton (Soph.), Chris Smith (Fr.), JaMarcus King (Fr.)
Position breakdown: On the South Carolina roster, there may not be a position as thin as cornerback. Perhaps that’s why Lammons is listed as a starter at corner and safety. That being said, King is expected to enter into the starting 11 on the first day of practice. Because of the lack of numbers, the Gamecocks can’t afford to have any injuries at the position.
Starters: Chaz Elder (Sr.), Chris Lammons (Jr.)
Backup(s): Jordan Diggs (Sr.), Chris Moody (Sr.), D.J. Smith (Jr.), Toure Boyd (Jr.), Jasper Sasser (Jr.), Antoine Wilder (Fr.)
Position breakdown: Diggs missed the spring with a shoulder injury, so he wasn’t listed on the two-deep after spring practice concluded. Assuming he’s healthy and ready to roll, Diggs could work his way back into the mix by the Sept. 1. In terms of experience, safety is the deepest position on the Gamecocks roster.
Starters: Elliott Fry (Sr.), Sean Kelly (Sr.)
Position breakdown: Fry was the lone South Carolina representative on any of the preseason All-SEC teams. He certainly merits consideration among the league’s best kickers. Last season, Kelly helped the Gamecocks finish fourth in the SEC in yards per punt.