South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp has made no secret of the fact that his team is going to play a lot of young players on defense in 2017. Here are five who could play the most:
The highest-rated member of South Carolina’s 2017 signing class was the 5-foot-9, 174-pound defensive back from Grayson, Ga. Williams will get a chance to impact the team in lots of areas, but it’s at the nickel back position that the Gamecocks are most likely to use him as a true freshman. Anything South Carolina can do to improve its coverage abilities will help greatly as the pass rush develops.
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The 6-foot-1, 224-pound freshman linebacker is not the most highly rated member of the class, but he’s one the defensive coaches are most excited about. The Gamecocks’ plan for Bowen, a Piedmont native, is to play him at outside linebacker and hope that his explosiveness makes him an effective pass rusher from that position.
The 6-foot, 174-pound safety enrolled early and made as big an impression as any young defender during spring practice. Muschamp is the team’s safeties coach as well, and he’s been looking for a physical and aggressive player at that position since he took over the Gamecocks. Dickerson may be that player sooner rather than later.
After a year at junior college, the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Kinlaw is the second-highest rated defender in the signing class of 2017. He’s a four-star player who is listed as a defensive end but may play inside and outside for the Gamecocks after bulking up at Jones County Junior College. If Kinlaw can help the pass rush from any position, he’ll play right away.
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound freshman from Pendleton is another four-star defensive end prospect. He will get a shot right away on the edge. Considering the Gamecocks lost their top pass rusher when Darius English graduated and there’s no obvious heir apparent among the returners, Johnson will get lots of looks in fall camp.