Even though the spring game was last Saturday, the South Carolina football team wraps up spring practice on Thursday morning.
The Gamecocks return six starters on defense in 2018. Below, SEC Country examines the state of each position group on that side of the ball heading into the summer before Will Muschamp’s third season as coach at South Carolina.
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If South Carolina needs to have five players ready for the rotation at this position, then the Gamecocks are off to a nice start with Javon Kinlaw, Kobe Smith and Keir Thomas. The three juniors played in every game last season. Kinlaw and Thomas combined to start 21 games.
There are plenty of names to fill out those last couple of spots, but none have played at this level.
J.J. Enagbare and Tyreek Johnson went through spring practice and drew favorable reviews from the coaches. M.J. Webb and Griffin Gentry are also in the mix, though neither have suited up for South Carolina.
Junior college transfer Jabari Ellis and freshmen Rick Sandidge and Jesus Gibbs will join the conversation later this year.
There are plenty of experienced defensive ends and outside linebackers on South Carolina’s roster.
D.J. Wonnum, the Gamecocks sack leader in 2017, is back. Bryson Allen-Williams, Shameik Blackshear and Daniel Fennell are also among the returning veterans. Plus, Brad Johnson and Aaron Sterling gained valuable experience as freshmen in 2017.
Those six players combined for 14 sacks last season. Here’s to believing that number, between the guys in that group, will increase in 2018.
T.J. Brunson is the leader of the group, as well as the South Carolina’s defense. He’s back to run the show from the middle linebacker spot.
Eldridge Thompson and Sherrod Greene are among the top candidates to join Brunson in the starting 11. Damani Staley and Rosendo Louis could also have roles for the Gamecocks this fall.
Rashad Fenton and Keisean Nixon are the starters, as long as Nixon isn’t playing nickel back. Beyond those two, there’s a lot of inexperienced cornerbacks: Korey Banks, Tavyn Jackson and Israel Mukuamu.
Banks and Mukuamu worked with the second-team defense during the spring game while Jackson sat out with a hamstring injury. Jaycee Horn, one of the top 2018 signees, is set to join the conversation later this year.
Steven Montac and Javon Charleston went through the spring as the starters, but the safety position could look totally different by September.
Jamyest Williams (shoulder) didn’t go through spring practice, but he’s going to play safety this season, after playing primarily at nickel as a freshman in 2017. Jaylin Dickerson continues to battle back from his shoulder injury, but looked last spring like someone who was ready to play as a freshman.
Those two, along with Rice graduate transfer J.T. Ibe, could end up being among the top options at the position in 2018.
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