The South Carolina offense won’t have wide receiver Deebo Samuel and running back Ty’Son Williams for the 2019 season, but the Gamecocks return plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball. Here’s a look at USC’s projected depth chart heading into spring practice, which begins Feb. 27.
Starters: Jake Bentley
Top Backups: Dakereon Joyner, Ryan Hilinski
Already one of just four players to throw for more than 7,000 yards in USC history, Bentley has a good shot at becoming the school’s leading career passer in his senior season. The real drama during the spring will be who earns the No. 2 job. Joyner, who played in one game last year, and Hilinski, who signed in December as one of the top high school players in the nation, are the top contenders. Both are freshmen, so whoever ends up No. 3 on the depth chart this fall will have some thinking to do.
Starters: Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith, OrTre Smith
Top Backup: Josh Vann
With the return of OrTre Smith from a knee injury that limited him to two games last year, the top of the depth chart looks solid with Edwards and Shi Smith having already proven they are ready for the No. 1 and 2 spots in the rotation. The question is depth. Vann, who had 18 catches as a true freshman last year, looks like he can take over the No. 1 receiver role eventually and provide lots of help this year, but South Carolina is going to need six receivers ready to go in the fall.
One to Watch: Randrecous Davis
The Gamecocks have tried to get the junior on the field for two years without much success due to injuries. He was limited to two catches in six games and probably needs to break through now if he’s ever going to.
Starter: Rico Dowdle
Top Backups: Mon Denson, Deshaun Fenwick
The path is clear for Dowdle to emerge as a true lead back during his senior season. The North Carolina native no long will have to share carries with Ty’Son Williams and maybe not with A.J. Turner. Fenwick is the wildcard here. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry in limited action last year and has some burst.
One to watch: Lavonte Valentine
The freshman missed all of last season due to an ACL tear he suffered in high school, but he’s healthy now, as evidenced by the 6.92 60-meters he ran with the USC track team this month. He could bring another dimension to the Gamecocks backfield.
Starter: Kiel Pollard
Top backup: Kyle Markway
When the Gamecocks are in a two-tight end set, the answer seems pretty simple. Pollard and Kyle Markway will likely be on the field. Who the No. 1 tight end is a more difficult questions, as both have different skill sets. Pollard closed 2018 strong, which gives him some momentum coming into spring.
One to watch: Evan Hinson
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound junior recently left the USC basketball team to focus exclusively on football. He brings the right size and athleticism to be a very good tight end in the SEC.
Starters: Sadarius Hutcherson, Dylan Wonnum
Top backup: Jordan Carty
Wonnum, who started on the right side as a true freshman last year, will man one of the tackle spots for a while to come. Hutcherson, a junior who has played guard the last two seasons, looks like the best bet for the other tackle spot. Carty, a 6-foot-7, 315-pound sophomore, has prototypical tackle size and earned a few positive comments in a backup role in 2018.
One to Watch: Max Imaya
Another prototype tackle frame, the redshirt freshman Imaya probably needs more seasoning.
Starters: Donell Stanley, Jovaughn Gwyn
Top backup: Eric Douglas, Chandler Farrell
Stanley switched from guard to center for the 2018 season and handled the job admirably, but a move back to guard looks likely thanks to the emergence of Hank Manos. As a senior, Stanley has a shot at an All-SEC season. Gwyn, a redshirt freshman who suffered an injury early last season, showed promise early, getting garbage time work in the opener alongside eventual starter Dylan Wonnum.
One to watch: Jordan Rhodes
The third-year sophomore was the team’s sixth lineman in some run-heavy packages last season. He’s strong, but might face competition from incoming freshmen in the summer.
Starter: Hank Manos
Top Backup: Stanley
Manos, a former high school wrestler, started his first collegiate game in the Belk Bowl, taking over for Stanley when Zack Bailey’s injury forced Stanley to guard. The Gamecocks have been expecting Manos to take the position since they signed him in 2018, and he probably won’t give it up for a while.