Josh Kendall

Five toughest Gamecocks to replace in 2018

South Carolina’s football team will return a lot of key players in 2018, especially on offense, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be holes to fill. Here’s our look at the five toughest players to replace from the 2017 season:

Hayden Hurst

It was time for the 25-year-old tight end to go, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for South Carolina fans to see him leave a year early. Hurst, who spent two seasons in minor league baseball before arriving at South Carolina, set the school’s career receptions record for a tight end, and has been an ever-present and athletic safety valve for quarterback Jake Bentley for two seasons. “My dad always calls him Big Boy, ‘Just throw it to Big Boy, he’ll make a play for you,’ ” Bentley said. That, and last season’s 44 catches and 559 yards, will be tough to replace.

Skai Moore

It’s a good thing Moore changed his mind about the NFL and decided to finish out his collegiate career. It’s hard to imagine how much different the Gamecocks season would have been without him this year. Along with leading the team in tackles (93) for a fourth season (become the 15th collegiate player to do that all four years he played), Moore had three interceptions and tied the school’s career record in that category (14).

Taylor Stallworth

The 6-foot-2, 305-pound defensive tackle had his best season as a senior. In the preseason, coach Will Muschamp called out Stallworth and fellow senior defensive linemen Dante Sawyer and Ulric Jones, and Stallworth answered the call the most forcefully. He ranked 10th on the team in tackles (30), a very respectable number for an interior lineman, and he had 2.5 tackles-for-loss and a team-high 10 quarterback hurries.

Chris Lammons

South Carolina loses three senior defensive backs, Lammons, safety D.J. Smith and cornerback JaMarcus King, but they will feel the loss of Lammons the most simply because of his versatility. Able to start at cornerback, nickel or safety, Lammons was a lifesaver at times in a very thin defensive backfield. He finished the season third on the team in tackles with 79 stops.

Cory Helms

Most of the offensive personnel is returning in 2018, but Helms and senior center Alan Knott won’t be back. Both were stalwarts up front, but Helms, the starting guard the past two seasons, was the more experienced of the two players (and his ability to play center in a pinch was nice, too). The Wake Forest transfer started more collegiate games (46) than any of his South Carolina teammates. Twenty-three of those starts came for the Gamecocks.