Matt Connolly

5 USC football freshmen who can make a difference this season

Wide receiver Bryan Edwards could play a big role for South Carolina in 2017
Wide receiver Bryan Edwards could play a big role for South Carolina in 2017

Bryan Edwards, WR

At 6-3, 205, the Conway native is physically ready to play in the SEC after a high school knee injury. He is penciled in as a starter entering fall practice and has all the tools to have a very productive career for the Gamecocks. He had more than 2,500 yards and 32 touchdowns in his prep career.

Rico Dowdle, RB

He played quarterback his senior year of high school at A.C. Reynolds in Asheville and put up incredible numbers, rushing for 48 touchdowns and 2,382 yards in 12 games. Dowdle can also make plays catching passes out of the backfield and should provide a boost to a running back position in need of playmakers.

Stephon Taylor, DT

The New Orleans native was the highest-rated defensive player in USC’s 2016 recruiting class and has a chance to immediately help the Gamecocks at a position of need. Taylor should provide depth and run-stopping ability to a unit that has struggled the past couple of years.

Brandon McIlwain, QB

A dual-threat quarterback who enrolled early to compete for the starting job, McIlwain was impressive running the offense this spring and has a chance to be the starter when the Gamecocks open the season at Vanderbilt.

Keir Thomas, DE

Another freshman who enrolled early, Thomas was impressive enough this spring to earn a spot on the two-deep depth chart entering the fall. The Miami native recorded 22 sacks as a senior and originally committed to Florida State before ultimately choosing the Gamecocks.