With newcomers having arrived on campus for summer school, here’s a look at the projected depth chart for preseason camp:
WR PHAROH COOPER / Christian Owens
Cooper is aiming for All-America status after a consensus first-team All-SEC year. There are plenty of backups, led by the 6-foot-5 Owens who participated in spring practice, but the only way Cooper comes off the field is if he’s carried off.
WR DEEBO SAMUEL / Shaq Davidson
The redshirt freshman sparkled in spring and should give the Gamecocks another pass-catcher in the realm of Bruce Ellington and Kenny McKinley – a guy with magnetic hands who isn’t afraid to go over the middle. Many backups, but Davidson has been around for a year.
WR SHAMIER JEFFERY / Terry Googer
Jeffery has much more experience but has struggled with injuries and living up to his potential. The 6-4 Googer had a solid spring and can help stretch the field. Jeffery may start the season on top but staying there may be difficult.
LT MIKE MATULIS / Mason Zandi
It’s with an asterisk, as Matulis missed all of the spring and the majority of the 2014 season with a bum knee. Oft-injured but very talented, Matulis is the guy if he’s healthy – if not, the 6-9 Zandi at least looks the part.
LG DONELL STANLEY / D.J. Park
Stanley took over in the spring when others were injured and improved during every session. He could be like predecessor A.J. Cann, who didn’t leave the position for four years.
C ALAN KNOTT / Cody Waldrop
Knott harnessed his sometimes-wild snapping and was very strong blocking during the spring. There probably won’t be a set backup, depending on the way the other line positions shake out, but Waldrop is familiar with the spot.
RG WILL SPORT / Malik Young
Sport drew raves for his offseason work and was versatile during the spring, where he played left tackle. His size should keep him somewhere on the starting line.
RT BRANDON SHELL / D.J. Park
He was on the shelf all spring, but it’s Shell’s position to lose. Zandi, Park or perhaps freshman Zack Bailey could back him up.
TE JERELL ADAMS / Clayton Stadnik
Adams is the unquestioned starter and can be a valuable weapon, especially as Connor Mitch wades into the starting-quarterback waters. Stadnik, down a lot of pounds after oral surgery, can be the tight end/H-back hybrid that Cody Gibson was last year.
QB CONNOR MITCH / Perry Orth
No debate. Mitch is the starter, and Orth – due to being around longer – is the backup. Michael Scarnecchia and Lorenzo Nunez might challenge, but Mitch is the guy.
RB BRANDON WILDS / David Williams
It’s Wilds’ time. He can be a breakout back if he can stay healthy. If Steve Spurrier doesn’t ask Mitch to do too much right away, Wilds and Williams provide the perfect comfort zone for Mitch to get ingrained.
FB CLAYTON STADNIK / Garrison Gist
USC doesn’t often run a straight fullback set, but Stadnik’s role as the receiver out of the backfield should get him the nod. Gist, one of the strongest players on the team, should dress for each game, but his playing time might be limited.
DE MARQUAVIUS LEWIS / David Johnson
USC’s production from the ends was so non-existent last year that a newcomer grabbed the spot right away. That’s not a knock, though – Lewis came to play and proved his junior-college accolades are legit.
DT GERALD DIXON JR. / Abu Lamin
Dixon Jr. is working out this summer with former NFL veteran Chris Hope, aiming to make his final season his best. Lamin has experience, but the backup spot might be a revolving door.
DT PHILLIP DUKES/ Ulric Jones
Dukes brings experience to the spot, and Jones already has become a crowd favorite due to some back-and-forth with Clemson fans. Could be a lot of competition at this spot.
DE GERALD S. DIXON / Dante Sawyer
The other Dixon’s hold on the spot is tenuous, as Sawyer is coming in with some tremendous hype. There’s never been a question that Dixon has the talent to play the position – but he has to consistently show it.
WLB JONATHAN WALTON / Bryson Allen-Williams
He and Skai Moore have been the most visible parts of USC’s defense the past two years. Following a tremendous bowl performance, Walton’s duties won’t change.
MLB SKAI MOORE / T.J. Holloman
He’s done so much already, yet Moore always wants more. He’ll be the guy to anchor Jon Hoke’s first unit on the field.
NICKEL T.J. GURLEY / Jasper Sasser
The re-naming/switching of the longtime Spur position, Hoke will keep a guy in mostly one spot on the field. Gurley had a strong spring to take an early lead, although Sasser closed with a dominant spring game.
CB RICO MCWILLIAMS / Al Harris
Whether it was youth or the defensive line not having any pass-rush, the secondary struggled last year. McWilliams was as steady as he could be when not having to cover a receiver for 15 seconds, and Harris got to play a lot.
SS ISAIAH JOHNSON / Chaz Elder
Not going to bring in a former All-Big 12 player and sit him. Could be a lot of rotation behind him, but USC’s newest player should start.
FS D.J. SMITH / Chris Moody
This one may be a constantly evolving spot among Smith, Moody and Jordan Diggs. They each took turns during the spring.
CB CHRIS LAMMONS / Wesley Green
Lammons struggled as a freshman but was consistent at the end. Green, a talented player who redshirted last year despite knowing there were minutes available, has a chance to prove what he learned in practice.
KO LANDON ARD / Elliott Fry
Ard boomed a great majority of his kicks through the end zone once the Gamecocks wised up and quit trying directional kicks.
PK ELLIOTT FRY / Landon Ard
Fry will challenge for All-SEC.
P SEAN KELLY / Joseph Charlton
Newcomers to the spot, but Kelly was here all spring.
KR SHON CARSON
Carson can catch, won’t turn it over and might get a few yards, but the way the game is played these days, not many get a chance at kickoffs since most are in the end zone.
PR PHAROH COOPER / Carlton Heard
The most electrifying athlete on the field could pull some Ace Sanders specials – if USC wants to risk their best playmaker.
LSN DREW WILLIAMS / Nick McGriff
Williams has been the guy for two seasons.
H SEAN KELLY / Landon Ard
It’s replacing a vital spot – one where Patrick Fish was extremely proficient, if unsung. Could come down to who doesn’t let one slip away during fall camp.