The Gamecocks put three players on the 2017 All-SEC team. That trio is now gone.
So which South Carolina players might find their way on the team for 2018? Here’s a few good candidates:
Deebo Samuel, wide receiver
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If not for injury, he would’ve landed there last season. He’s a top-flight receiver (783 yards in 2016, 250 in three games last year), adds a dimension as a power runner (eight rushing TDs in past 13 games) and an explosive kick returner (scored in USC’s first two games). The only matter is health, after various maladies cost him part of his sophomore year and most of his junior season. His excellence and the balance around him make it less likely a Bryan Edwards or Shi Smith also could contend, unless Jake Bentley threw in the high 3,000-yard range.
D.J. Wonnum, Buck
They key will be building on a breakout sophomore year, but he’s got the ability to be an explosive pass rusher and disruptive presence. In 2017, he was tied for 10th in the conference in sacks with six and seventh in tackles for loss with 13. The challenge will be the depth of pass rushers the SEC boasts annually.
Zack Bailey, right tackle
He’s USC’s best lineman and posted a strong 2017 in his first year outside after moving from guard. With a year of comfort at the position and health, after missing four games and one other start, he could make a push.
Javon Kinlaw, defensive tackle
The junior college transfer flashed athleticism and ability as he made 20 tackles with three pass breakups, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. That’s in a season where he had to work into better shape and earn a bigger role each week. He comes into 2018 as the team’s projected top defensive tackle.
Rashad Fenton, cornerback
For much of the season, he was one of the most avoided defensive backs in the SEC. The finish put a bit of a damper on things, but he still managed 48 tackles, one interception and eight pass break-ups. He’ll have to play a full year like he played the first half and perhaps need a bit more score sheet production.
Joseph Charlton, punter
He was known for booming some punts, with 17 longer than 50 yards in 55 tries, and put 15 inside the 20 with only four touchbacks. USC ranked 19th nationally in net punting, sixth in the SEC, and five of those teams lose their punters.
There’s a chance if things break right
Bryson Allen-Williams, linebacker
His best skill is his versatility, which can make it harder to stand out for awards. He’s a player who can rush the passer a little, play in space, pick off a pass or two and post solid tackle numbers. If he can get one or two of those categories high enough to garner attention, the rest will boost his case.
Jake Bentley, quarterback
He’d obviously have to take a step forward from the 2,794-yard, 18-touchdown, 12-interception season he had in 2017, a campaign that was a hint disappointing considering the preseason expectations. He’d also have the roadblock that Missouri’s Drew Lock and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, both All-SEC passers this season, return.
T.J. Brunson, linebacker
Working alongside Skai Moore, he managed to post 88 tackles. That’s a good bit. If he can raise that total, he could have a chance, but he’ll also have to raise his number of big plays. He had 4 1/2 tackles for loss, two sacks (both in the bowl game), a pair of quarterback hurries and one fumble return touchdown.