Jaycee Horn: Gamecocks can have ‘one of the best secondaries in the nation’
South Carolina football had a pair of names on the preseason All-SEC team released on Friday and voted on my media, with Javon Kinlaw and Bryan Edwards getting second- and third-team nods, respectively.
But which other Gamecocks might be able to play their way onto the postseason team? Here’s a look at the best candidates.
CB Jaycee Horn
He was arguably the best defensive back the team had last season, and that was as a true freshman. Now he’s playing more of a showcase position (outside corner vs. nickel) and has a full year of experience under his belt. Last year he didn’t record a single interception, but assuming he continues to play well, those will come. That in itself would fuel his chances.
P Joseph Charlton
He was named to the second team last year. The guy ahead of him, Texas A&M’s Braden Mann, is back, but he got jumped in the preseason list by punters from Florida and Auburn. South Carolina was a top-15 punting team last year and should have a deeper roster with more pieces on the coverage unit.
WR Shi Smith
Edwards comes into the season with a much longer resume, but Smith posted a breakout season last fall. Despite being targeted a third as much as Edwards and Deebo Samuel, Smith posted 45 catches (only 10 fewer than Edwards) and 675 yards (less than 200 fewer than Edwards). With some questions around the guys behind him, he could step forward into a heavily-used primary option.
OT Dylan Wonnum
He went from high school to the starting lineup in half a year, and last fall had none of the benefits of time in the program. He’s got another year with Jeff Dillman and Eric Wolford and is probably the most talented lineman the team has. The conference is usually deep on the line, but he’s got a high ceiling. His brother D.J. would likely make this list, but the conference’s perpetual depth of pass rushers would require a massive statistical output.
LB T.J. Brunson
The key for Brunson’s candidacy is built on hitting two benchmarks. He’s got to make a lot of tackles, more than his 106 last year, and he’ll need a few more disruptive plays. He was at four sacks last year but could use more in terms of either forced fumbles or getting hands on passes. It would also help if South Carolina’s defense took a major step forward.