USC Gamecocks Football

With training camp finished, projecting South Carolina football’s depth chart

Bryan McClendon on how USC’s offensive playbook has evolved, what he sees in UNC

South Carolina football offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon discusses how the Gamecocks offense has changed from Year 1 to Year 2 in his tenure and what he sees in opener opponent North Carolina's defense.
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South Carolina football offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon discusses how the Gamecocks offense has changed from Year 1 to Year 2 in his tenure and what he sees in opener opponent North Carolina's defense.

The South Carolina football team is done with training camp, so it’s a good time to look at what the depth chart might look like as the team transitions to preparing for the Aug. 31 opener against North Carolina.

The Gamecocks coaches and players have talked about who has stood out, giving a hint at how things might fall.

Quarterback

No. 1 Jake Bentley

No. 2 Ryan Hilinski

No. 3 Dakereon Joyner

It’s hard to see anyone unseating Bentley, even with some struggles with consistency. Hilinski was picked as the No. 2 already with Joyner at No. 3. It leaves questions of whether Joyner will possibly change positions or perhaps transfer out.

Running back

No. 1 Mon Denson

No. 2 Tavien Feaster

No. 3 Rico Dowdle

This is more to reflect who likely starts against UNC than how carries are divided up. Feaster is playing his way into shape after transferring from Clemson, while Dowdle is dealing with a nagging bone bruise. This doesn’t mean that those two won’t ultimately end up the team’s workhorse backs. It does mean that early on, Denson will likely get at least some work as the other two round into being healthy.

South Carolina football offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon and senior quarterback Jake Bentley discuss the decision to name freshman Ryan Hilinski the backup signal caller over redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner and what it means for the Gamecocks.

Wide receivers

No. 1 Shi Smith, OrTre Smith, Bryan Edwards

No. 2 Josh Vann, Randrecous Davis, Chavis Dawkins

No. 3 Chad Terrell, Xavier Legette

That top three group is both experienced and productive. Edwards is chasing some all-time records, and Shi Smith has been starting since his first game. OrTre Smith was hurt last year, but has Edwards-esque skills. Behind them, Vann had a freshman year that disappointed at times, but coaches raved about his training camp. Davis and Dawkins are seasoned veterans and Legette has been praised as explosive.

Tight ends

No. 1 Kyle Markway

No. 2 Will Register

This group is a question mark and suddenly thin. Kiel Pollard, a presumptive starter, is done with football, while Evan Hinson will miss the start of the season. That takes the two best receiving threats out of the mix. Markway, as a veteran, will have to do a lot. Register is a player who will have to make a big jump. The freshmen are Traevon Kenion and KeShawn Toney. Kenion missed much of camp, so a lot might be on Toney. This group would get a big boost if transfer Nick Muse was ruled eligible to play this year by the NCAA.

Offensive tackle

No. 1 Sadarius Hutcherson, Dylan Wonnum

No. 2 Jakai Moore, Jaylin Nichols

No. 3 Eric Douglas

Those top two are pretty solid — both big, quick, athletic guys with high ceilings. Reviews of Hutcherson have been that he’s solid, and Wonnum was good enough to start as a true freshman. Douglas is likely the most seasoned option to replace either, but he’s also backing up everyone on the line. Moore and Nichols both have the talent and ability, but it’s rare for true freshman linemen to get much action.

Offensive guard

No. 1 Donell Stanley, Eric Douglas

No. 2 Jovaughn Gwyn, Jordan Rhodes

This might be the deepest and most flexible spot along the line. Either of the backups could in theory step in as starters. Stanley can back up any of the interior spots and Douglas could back up any of the spots. But those two should be solid if nothing else.

Center

No. 1 Hank Manos

No. 2 Eric Douglas

No. 3 Donell Stanley

It sounds as if Manos has that spot locked down, which is good news considering the other center options are key backups elsewhere. Eric Wolford likes to have a lot of options who can snap, and he’ll have them this season.

Buck defensive end

No. 1 DJ Wonnum

No. 2 Brad Johnson

No. 3 Daniel Fennell

This is basically the same group the team had going into last year, give or take Bryson Allen-Williams eventually taking over the position. Wonnum has the potential to be a star if he’s healthy all season. Johnson has yet to fully display his ability. Fennell is a steady presence.

Defensive end

No. 1 Kingsley Enagbare

No. 2 Aaron Sterling

No. 3 Keir Thomas

Sterling is a returning starter, but Enagbare likely offers more size and upside. Sterling is a solid second option, a hard worker with some pass-rush pop. Thomas has been a reliable player inside and outside for years, and could well see a big role depending on how things shake out. Watch out for freshman Joseph Anderson as well.

South Carolina football defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson explains how the Gamecocks' competitive depth on defense in training camp is the best he's seen since he came to USC and the impact it's had on practice.

Defensive tackle

No. 1 Javon Kinalw, Kobe Smith

No. 2 Rick Sandidge, Keir Thomas

No. 3 Zacch Pickens, Jabari Ellis

This is a spot where the Gamecocks are set to have a lot of very good guys. Kinlaw could be a star. Sandidge has nice upside. Smith and Thomas are solid, and Pickens was a top 10 recruit who showed a lot in camp. In short, there will be options.

Middle linebacker

No. 1 Ernest Jones

No. 2 T.J. Brunson

No. 3 Derek Boykins

This position shows just how much cross training the staff has been doing in the back end of the defense. Jones has impressed in a big way, enough to let Brunson slide over to the weakside starting spot. Sherrod Greene and Rosendo Louis could probably get involved here.

Weakside linebacker

No. 1 T.J. Brunson

No. 2 Sherrod Greene

No. 3 Eldridge Thompson

Brunson moves over from the middle, where he started the past two seasons. It’ll be interesting to see how he performs as a player asked to play more in space. Greene gets the No. 2 nod because he started there last year, while Thompson has a lot of coverage ability. Also, don’t sleep on Jahmar Brown, a freshman who impressed all camp.

Strongside linebacker

No. 1 Sherrod Greene

No. 2 Eldridge Thompson

No. 3 Rosendo Louis

This position is a wildcard because it can be almost anything. Greene and Louis are sturdy. Thompson offers some versatility. Daniel Fennell brings pass rush with some linebacker skill. Brown could resurface here, too. Considering USC has a smattering of teams that play two backs or two tight ends on the roster, this position could be used a bit more than in past years.

Corner

No. 1 Israel Mukuamu, Jaycee Horn

No. 2 A.J. Turner, John Dixon

No. 3 Cam Smith

This group is top-heavy, with Horn and Mukuamu possibly having the ability to be among the best corner duos in the SEC. Turner only returned to defensive back late last fall, but the staff seems to trust him a good bit. The question will be depth, and really what Dixon and Smith can show this year. Both are pretty talented, but there’s still a college learning curve.

Nickel

No. 1 Jammie Robinson

No. 2 R.J. Roderick

No. 3 Jaycee Horn

Robinson has been a star in camp, getting praise just about any time someone asks about him. USC has run out true freshmen at nickel the past two seasons, and it could well continue. Roderick was a player the staff hoped to move here, but it seems safety might need him more (in theory, he and Robinson could switch at times). Horn and Jamyest Williams played there the past two years, and at least provide some interesting options.

Safety

No. 1 R.J. Roderick, Jamyest Williams

No. 2 J.T. Ibe, Jammie Robinson

No. 3 Jamel Cook, Shilo Sanders

This is where things get interesting. Roderick is a staple, a hard hitter and reliable. Ibe might get the nod had he not been battling a pec injury all August. Williams has been working a long time to reach the potential folks felt he had, and we’ll pencil him in to start, with Ibe as essentially a top rotation guy. After that, there are a few questions. Robinson might be capable, but nickel might call him. Jamel Cook has a lot of ability, but there hasn’t been much discussion of him during camp. Sanders moved here from corner and is just a young guy looking to get his feet wet.

Punt returner

No. 1 Bryan Edwards

No. 2 Shi Smith

Edwards was the guy last year, and even after special teams coach Coleman Hutzler said that could be more open, Muschamp said he still expects Edwards to do the job. He was a solid presence and occasionally showed the ability to break one, so the staff still has faith that could come.

Kickoff returner

No. 1 Shi Smith

No. 2 A.J. Turner

Turner spent most of last year throwing blocks for Deebo Samuel. The coaches said he’s the No. 1 guy here, and that might turn out to be the case, but don’t sleep on Smith as a shifty, explosive guy getting some work. He’s not Deebo (no one is), but he has some ability to move.

Punter

No. 1 Joseph Charlton

No. 2 Christian Kinsley

Charlton is a guy with All-SEC ability and should have this locked down as long as he’s upright. Kinsley punted 56 times across two years at Kennesaw State.

Kicker

No. 1 Parker White

No. 2 Alex Woznick

White earned the job last season by being accurate inside the 40-yard range. He might have the leg for more, and he’s clearly the guy ahead of Woznick, who struggled when given the job at the start of 2017.

South Carolina football special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler talks about the state of the Gamecocks' kick return game, where USC is trying to replace Deebo Samuel. AJ Turner, Josh Vann, Shi Smith and others are still in contention for the job.

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