Josh Kendall

Five to watch: Veteran defenders key to USC’s 2017 season

Five players to watch on the South Carolina defense as spring practice starts on Saturday.

Bryson Allen-Williams

LB, Senior

The 6-foot, 230-pounder was second on the team last year in tackles (75) and had more tackles-for-loss (8.5) than any returning Gamecock. Now the challenge for Allen-Williams will be to take the next step. An above-average athlete, he will be used in multiple positions in the fall, which may mean a busy spring of learning or at least relearning. After one full season in head coach Will Muschamp’s system, he should be poised to do that.

Skai Moore

LB, Senior

Once the only given on USC’s defense, Moore is now the Gamecocks’ biggest unknown. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound second-team All-SEC selection led the team in tackles in 2013, 2014 and 2015 before missing the 2016 season due to a herniated disc that required surgery. The are two big questions Moore must answer this spring: Is he fully healthy? And, which linebacker spot will he man? If Moore can return to his old form and lead the team in tackles again, he will be the first player ever to lead the team four years.

Jamarcus King

CB, Senior

After an impressive start to the 2016 season, King faded down the stretch. The one-time No. 1 junior college defensive back in the country, King has to do two things this offseason – get his confidence back and increase his weight. He played last year at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds but would like to be closer to 195 this fall. He needs to get there to avoid being pushed around as he was at times last year. South Carolina will be much better if King can man one side of the defense by himself.

Shameik Blackshear

DE, Sophomore

It’s hard to believe this will be Blackshear’s third fall with the Gamecocks. The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Bluffton native played briefly in 2015 but then received a medical redshirt. After recovering from an offseason shooting, Blackshear had two tackles last year. If he has fully recovered from a high school knee injury and regained his strength after his incident last offseason, Blackshear could be the edge rusher South Carolina needs to replace Darius English’s nine sacks. This spring will tell a lot about where he is.

Chris Lammons

DB, Senior

Where Lammons spends his time this spring could tell us how South Carolina feels about its incoming and returning cornerbacks. Lammons, 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, started every game at cornerback or nickel back in 2016 but could be moved to safety to pair with D.J. Smith if the Gamecocks can find other cornerbacks. If USC thinks King has improved and Jamyest Williams can handle immediate action, Lammons might end up at safety.