Will Muschamp has worried about it all preseason.
“You just don’t know how a young team is going to react,” South Carolina’s first-year head coach said.
When the Gamecocks take the field on Thursday against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., they will be young in age and experience across the board. As many as seven players are expected to make the first start of their careers and six of them are on the offensive side of the football. Let’s take a look at the newcomers.
Offensive lineman Donell Stanley: The 6-foot-4, 325-pound sophomore has taken virtually all the first-team snaps at right guard this preseason.
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Offensive lineman D.J. Park: The 6-foot-4, 330-pound junior could be one of the surprises of the season, having won the starting right tackle job.
Wide receiver Bryan Edwards: The 6-foot-3, 210-pound freshman from Conway is living up to his four-star billing of late in practice.
Wide receiver Jamari Smith: The 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior seems to have finally found a home at slot receiver after bouncing from running back to defensive back earlier in his career.
Tight end K.C. Crosby: The 6-foot-1, 227-pound sophomore is the second tight end behind Hayden Hurst, but the Gamecocks will use the tight ends extensively enough that two could start.
Tailback A.J. Turner: The 5-foot-10, 195-pound freshman redshirted last year and supplanted David Williams as the top back in the preseason.
Defensive back Rashad Fenton: The 5-foot-10, 190-pound sophomore will either start at cornerback or nickel.
You may have noticed that freshman quarterback Brandon McIlwain is not on this list. I expect McIlwain to play, but my money is on senior Perry Orth to take the first snap. If I’m wrong, make it eight first-time starters for the Gamecocks.