David Cloninger

Camp Insider: Which USC player can finally return a kickoff for a TD?

Freshman tailback A.J. Turner is in the mix for the kick return job.
Freshman tailback A.J. Turner is in the mix for the kick return job. dmclemore@thestate.com

It will be brought up every game until it’s repeated. It’s a streak that’s lasted 162 games, so what are a few more?

“Matthew Thomas, 95 yards vs. Virginia, Sept. 7, 2002.”

The last time South Carolina returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

“Hey, people have done it, and we believe that we can do it,” running backs coach Everette Sands said on Tuesday. “Overall up front and the back wedge, we’re getting better, and if we can get better there, then those opportunities are going to come.”

Sands will have several of his players on special teams – backups Darius Paulk and Rod Talley should be mainstays and Shon Carson was the primary kick returner last year – and two freshmen may make an impact. Mon Denson and A.J. Turner, particularly Turner, could get a look.

“That’s still a possibility,” Sands said of Turner. “A decision hasn’t been made yet.”

It’s a tricky issue. Many kickoffs aren’t returnable these days since the balls are boomed through the end zone. Should a freshman’s potential redshirt year be burned for a spot that’s not likely to produce?

Turner and Denson, behind Carson, Brandon Wilds and David Williams, don’t stand to get many carries. Despite the kickoff numbers, Carson got 31 returns last year, averaging 20.4 yards per with a long of 42, and four other players split eight returns.

Try something new? Take your chances on getting a couple of returns per game? Redshirts aren’t definite until the end of the year anyway, and if guys have to play, they have to play.

Like we’ve said many times this preseason camp, it all depends.