By Jeff Owens/Photos by Allen Sharpe and Jenny Dilworth
The Gamecocks are loaded with talent at some positions (WR), and have good experience at others (offensive line). But they are lacking depth at most positions.
They need depth on both lines, at linebacker and in the secondary. Most of those roles will be filled by in-coming freshmen and newcomers.
Here's a look at five newcomers who could fill big roles at key positions:
WR Shi Smith
The Gamecocks have two potential stars at wide receiver in Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards, and plenty of returning depth behind them. It also has some exciting incoming freshmen.
The most intriguing is the smaller of the two Smiths (the other is OrTre). Shi is the fastest player on the team, with offensive coordinator Kurt Roper saying he has "flashed" during training camp.
"Shi is just explosive, quick," junior receiver Terry Googer said. "Even though he is small of stature, he uses his body very well to get open. … He's special."
"Shi Smith has really impressed us," quarterback Jake Bentley said. Tuesday. "He is really quick and he is picking up on the plays really well. He will be able to help us this year."
Smith, a 5-10, 179-pound freshman from Union, is expected to see time in the slot and could be the second coming of Samuel or Pharaoh Cooper.
DB Jamyest Williams
Williams is the prize recruit of the 2017 class and could make an immediate impact. A four-star recruit who was considered one of the top athletes in the country, he is working at multiple spots in the secondary and could earn playing time in the back five.
"A really good talented player," Defensive Coordinator Travaris Robinson said. "We are excited about him. He's got the skill set that we always knew he had and he competes like we knew he would."
An Under Armour All-American, Smith was also an explosive offensive player in high school and could get a look in the return game. Robinson is not about to let him move to offense, though.
"If they do that, I'll take Shi on defense," he said.
DL Javon Kinlaw
No one has stood out in training camp more than Kinlaw — mainly because of his size. The JUCO from Charleston stands 6-6, 326 pounds and towers over some of his teammates on the D-line.
"He's big. He's really big. He demands two blocks," Robinson said.
Kinlaw could back up seniors Taylor Stallworth and Ulric Jones at defensive tackle, or work his way into a starting role. His size could help plug some gaps up front and help stop the run.
"We need someone who can hold the point," Robinson said. "When you look at some of the games where we had the ball run down our throat … we just couldn't hang in there because we didn't have the girth. He provides instant girth."
OL Dennis Dailey
The Gamecocks need depth on the offensive line. While seniors Alan Knott and Cory Helms and juniors Zack Bailey and Donell Stanley figure to start, there is fierce competition at left tackle between Malik Young and Daley.
Daley, a junior college transfer, would be South Carolina's largest offensive lineman at 6-6, 330.
"Daley is a guy we have been excited about since he's been on campus," Muschamp said.
Daley is getting help from junior Malik Young, who is competing with him at the left-tackle spot.
"Dennis, he's got it. Me and him are on the same level athletically," Young said. "I like helping him. He's picking it up pretty good."
DE Brad Johnson
Robinson and Muschamp are looking for pass rushers, and that could open the door for Johnson, a Shrine Bowl defensive end and state champion in the shot put.
Johnson is working at the Buck position and could wind up backing up D.J. Wonnum or playing some linebacker. He is one of the freshmen who have impressed Robinson.
"I think Brad Johnson has done some nice things," he said. "Maybe (he) can find some immediate pass rush for us."
Other newcomers expected to play: WR OrTre Smith; DL Aaron Sterling; LB Sherrod Greene; LB Eldridge Thompson; DB Jaylin Dickerson; DB Keisean Nixon; DB Tavyn Jackson.