USC Gamecocks Football

2016 Gamecocks poised to have heavy freshman influence

South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson is expected to have a role during his freshman season.
South Carolina linebacker T.J. Brunson is expected to have a role during his freshman season. mwalsh@thestate.com

Expect a heavy dose of fresh faces on the field in 2016 for the South Carolina football team.

The Gamecocks expect to redshirt “five to eight” of the freshman class this year, head coach Will Muschamp said Wednesday as he addressed the Columbia Touchdown Club at its annual kickoff luncheon.

“We hit on our freshman class,” Muschamp said.

There are 23 true freshmen in the 2016 class, which also includes junior college transfer defensive backs Jamarcus King and Steven Montac.

Muschamp’s remarks suggest as many as 15 to 18 true freshmen could see the field this season.

In comparison, the Gamecocks played nine true freshman in 2015 and seven in 2013 (including Elliott Fry, who was a walk-on at the time). From last year’s team, offensive lineman Zack Bailey led the way with five starts, with defender Boosie Whitlow starting three games and quarterback Lorenzo Nunez starting twice.

Widely expected to play big roles this season include quarterback Brandon McIlwain and wide receiver Bryan Edwards. USC signed five receivers in this class, with Kiel Pollard transitioning to tight end this preseason.

“The plan is to get them all ready to play,” wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon said earlier this month. “Everyone that we brought in I’m getting ready to play for us.”

Coaches also have said good things about newcomers such as linebacker T.J. Brunson and defensive end D.J. Wonnum.

Excluding linebacker Skai Moore, who will miss the season with an injury, the Gamecocks return nine players who have started in 10 games or more in their career. The team’s inexperience is a point Muschamp has driven home in one way or another on an almost daily basis.

South Carolina’s freshman scholarship players

Offense

▪  QB: Jake Bentley

▪  QB: Brandon McIlwain

▪  RB: Rico Dowdle

▪  RB: C.J. Freeman

▪  WR: Korey Banks

▪  WR: Randrecous Davis

▪  WR: Chavis Dawkins

▪  WR: Bryan Edwards

▪  TE: Evan Hinson

▪  TE: Kiel Pollard

▪  TE: Robert Tucker

▪  OL: Sadarius Hutcherson

▪  OL: Pika Leota

▪  OL: Will Putnam

▪  OL: Darius Whitfield

Defense

▪  DL: Griffin Gentry

▪  DL: Kobe Smith

▪  DL: Stephon Taylor

▪  DL: Keir Thomas

▪  DL: Aaron Thompson

▪  DL: D.J. Wonnum

▪  LB: T.J. Brunson

▪  DB: Chris Smith

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