Will Muschamp’s fourth South Carolina team has a handful of established stars.
Seniors Jake Bentley, Bryan Edwards and Donell Stanley lead an experienced offense.
D.J. Wonnum and Javon Kinlaw have shown all-star potential on defense and are considered NFL prospects.
But there are a host of other players who seem poised to make a big impact this season. Some have already attracted plenty of attention, while others are under-the-radar players anxious to take advantage of a golden opportunity.
Here’s seven players we can’t wait to see play this season.
There was plenty of excitement surrounding the Gamecocks when players reported Aug. 1 and practice began Aug. 2.
But the buzz was ratcheted up a notch when Tavien Feaster showed up at camp on Aug. 3.
The Clemson transfer is expected to add some juice to a running game that has struggled the past two seasons. Feaster, who rushed for 1,330 yards and 15 touchdowns at Clemson, has the size to get tough yards between the tackles and the speed to produce big plays in the running game and passing attack.
More importantly, he has the shake to make defenders miss, something Muschamp has been clamoring for the past two seasons.
Feaster could be the answer to South Carolina’s rushing attack and the best back the Gamecocks have had since Marcus Lattimore.
South Carolina has a deep and experienced receiving corp. Bryan Edwards is an established star and Shi Smith has the speed and explosiveness to be the next Deebo Samuel.
But OrTre may prove to be just as valuable. Edwards calls Smith “a beast,” and at 6-4, 220 he should be hard for any defensive back to handle. Smith was a sure-handed receiver who caught 30 passes, including three for touchdowns, as a freshman.
With defenses paying close attention to Edwards and Shi, OrTre could be a huge factor for Bentley and the Gamecocks.
His teammates call Hutcherson a freak for his impressive feats of strength in the weight room. A former tight end and defensive end, “Hutch” gained nearly 100 pounds his first year on campus and became a fixture on the offensive line.
A two-year starter, he’s moved to left tackle, where he has the strength and athleticism to become a star. Dennis Daley started at left tackle the past two seasons and is now in line to play a key role for the Carolina Panthers as a rookie.
We can’t wait to see Hutcherson maul opposing defensive ends and linebackers this season.
The Gamecocks already have two potential stars on the defensive line in D.J. Wonnum and Javon Kinlaw. They could have another in freshman Zacch Pickens, Muschamp’s first five-star signee.
Pickens was a Jadeveon Clowney like stud in high school, dominating on the defensive line and rushing for more than 1,000 yards. At 6-3, 300 pounds, defensive line coach John Scott Jr. says he looks more like a junior than a true freshman.
Pickens is slated to provide depth on an experienced defensive line, but he has the potential to make a big impact and become an immediate star. “The sky’s the limit for him,” Wonnum said.
Horn and Mukuamu
They hype surrounding young corners Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu is off the charts.
Jake Bentley hates throwing their way and calls them “two great corners.” Senior DB A.J. Turner calls them “head-hunters.”
And Horn and Mukuamu don’t lack for confidence, predicting they will eventually be the best cover tandem in the country.
If they are as good as advertised, South Carolina will be able to play man coverage and its secondary will be much improved, making the whole Gamecock defense better.
Jones has drawn rave reviews for the progress he made during the offseason and appears ready to play a huge role at linebacker. He stepped into a starting role while T.J. Brunson was injured in the spring and might not relinquish it.
An intelligent player who was recruited by Duke, Jones has impressed his teammates with his instincts and communication skills. And at 6-2, 235 pounds, linebacker coach Coleman Hutzler calls him a “hammerhead” for his aggressive, physical play.
Muschamp says his two best linebackers will play at the MIKE and WILL positions and that may be Brunson and Jones. If so, the Gamecocks could have their best linebacker duo since Brunson and Skai Moore.
By most accounts, Ryan Hilinski is the prototypical pro-style quarterback, with a skill set similar to Jake Bentley’s and the tools to run South Carolina’s offense. But Joyner could be a game-changer.
Joyner has worked hard on his passing skills and has a better grasp of the offense this year, according to players and coaches. And head coach Will Muschamp likes his leadership skills. But it’s Joyner’s running ability that has fans salivating.
If Joyner can earn playing time and get on the field, he can provide another dimension to South Carolina’s running game and give the Gamecocks another big-play threat. Muschamp and quarterbacks coach Dan Werner insist Joyner is a quarterback first, but they will be tempted to get one of the team’s most explosive players on the field.