South Carolina's season opener in Charlotte, N.C., will be a homecoming for a handful of Gamecocks.
While 15 current players call North Carolina home, four have direct ties to the Charlotte area.
"I haven't played in Charlotte in awhile," said senior wide receiver Jason Barnes, who starred at nearby Independence High School. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity. A lot of people from Charlotte want to come see me play."
At least 20 family members and friends are coming, Barnes said, as the Gamecocks face East Carolina on Sept. 3 at Bank of America Stadium.
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Barnes (6-4, 214) was a four-star prospect at Independence, catching 84 passes for 1,413 yards and 14 touchdowns in his state title senior campain in 2006. He's expected to see significant playing time against the Pirates as one of USC's top four receivers.
Roles are not set for the true freshmen from the Charlotte area, wide receiver K.J. Brent and tight end Drew Owens. Both could be destined to redshirt, but that hasn't altered their enthusiasm to play in the Queen City.
"It means a lot," Brent said. "I know a lot of my family and friends are going to be there. Hopefully I can play in front of them."
Brent (6-3, 180) played receiver at Marvin Ridge High in Waxhaw. He was the first commitment for the class of 2011, picking the Gamecocks over North Carolina in April 2010. It was that summer he realized USC's first game of the 2011 season would be played in the home of the Carolina Panthers.
"I started working hard then. I wanted to play in that first game," he said.
East Carolina's roster is loaded with instate talent, including two players from Ardrey Kell High School, where Owens (6-5, 241) played tight end.
"It's going to be a good homecoming to get to play against some of my teammates I've had in the past and a lot of my friends that played at rivalry schools around North Carolina," said Owens, who picked the Gamecocks over N.C. State.
Junior spur DeVonte Holloman played at Charlotte's Independence High before finishing his career at South Pointe High in Rock Hill. He'll be serving a one-game suspension and will miss the season opener.
Head coach Steve Spurrier said the team will go to Charlotte next Friday, have dinner and stay overnight. They might visit Bank of America Stadium on Saturday morning, he said.
"Our guys are looking forward to playing in an NFL stadium," Spurrier said on his call-in show Thursday.
The Gamecocks are the home team in Charlotte but won't have a true home game until Sept. 17 against Navy.
"It's going to be a warm welcome to finally play in Williams-Brice," Owens said.