South Carolina spring football practice starts Feb. 28 and wraps up March 31 with the spring game. Here are five position battles to watch during that month of work:
This won’t be decided until fall, but it will be interesting to see how many players get a look here. Redshirt freshman Jaylin Dickerson won’t be available in the spring due to the shoulder injury that cost him the 2017 season, but he’s expected to make a run at the starting job in the fall. Same for junior Antoine Wilder due to an elbow injury. Until then, Steven Montac, Javon Charleston and early enrollee R.J. Roderick will get a chance to impress the coaches. Keisean Nixon, who played cornerback in his limited appearances last year, is a candidate to move back to safety as well.
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Senior Rashad Fenton has something to prove this spring. After a strong start to the 2017 season, he faded down the stretch and shared time with the much-less experienced Nixon in the bowl game. Still, he’s the odds-on favorite to win a starting job. Nixon also will get a long look on the outside as well, as will redshirt freshman Tayvn Jackson, who impressed coaches last fall before a severe hamstring injury set him back. Jamyest Williams won’t participate in spring after having shoulder surgery. He’ll return in the fall, likely as the starting nickel back. The wild card in spring practice is 6-foot-4 early enrollee Israel Mukuamu, who Muschamp has praised already.
Javon Kinlaw is an entrenched starter after a breakout 2017 season, but the other spot in the middle is up for grabs. Junior Kobe Smith, who had 12 tackles last year, probably will open spring practice as the other starter, but junior Keir Thomas might be big enough to get a shot there as well at defensive end. Sophomore Aaron Thompson and redshirt freshman M.J. Webb also will get a look. All of them probably will have to play in the fall.
Stalwart Alan Knott is gone, opening up an interesting battle in the middle of the offensive line. Sophomores Eric Douglas and Chandler Farrell are expected to get a look, but keep an eye on early enrollee freshman Hank Manos. He’s 6-4, 275 pounds and very athletic.
The now-familiar trio of running backs still is awaiting somebody to emerge from the pack. A.J. Turner did to a degree in the second half of last season and ended up as the leading rusher with 92 carries for 517 yards, but Ty’Son Williams and Rico Dowdle will have a chance this spring to show a consistent production they haven’t so far in the fall.