By Jeff Owens/Photo by Allen Sharpe
South Carolina’s spring practice will begin on Feb. 27 and the Gamecocks will have a handful of players who will miss the spring session due to injuries, including two key starters on defense.
Senior linebacker T.J. Brunson will miss the spring after having a sports hernia and a clean-up procedure on his knee. Starting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw also will be out while recovery from a hip injury.
Defensive end Danny Fennell, defensive tackle Tyreek Johnson and running back Caleb Kinlaw will also be out after having ACL surgery. Linebacker Rosendo Louis will be out after shoulder surgery.
Defensive end D.J. Wonnum, who missed part of last season with an ankle injury, is expected to be healthy, while defensive back Jamyest Williams and linebacker Eldridge Thompson will only participate in non-contact drills.
The Gamecocks will practice for one week before having a week off for South Carolina’s spring break. The team will return after spring break and practice until the annual Garnet & Black Spring Game on April 6.
The start date is a bit early for Muschamp, but he didn’t want to push it back until after spring break.
“It is what it is with the calendar. I wish we could bump it back a little bit but it just doesn’t fit with our calendar,” he said.
The Gamecocks have had seven players announce their intentions to transfer, most notably running back Ty’Son Williams.
Williams, who transferred to South Carolina from North Carolina three years ago, split time with running backs Rico Dowdle, Mon Denson and A.J. Turner the last two seasons but decided to transfer for a better opportunity. He has not announced where he will play next season.
“We talked and he just felt like he needed a fresh start,” Muschamp said.
Defensive end Shameik Blackshear has already transferred to TCU. Other players who entered the transfer portal include defensive backs Javon Charleston, Jaylan Foster, Kory Banks and Nick Harvey and defensive tackle Jesus Gibbs.
Meanwhile, two seniors are hoping to return with another year of eligibility. Safety J.T. Ibe, who transferred from Rice last year, was granted a medical redshirt and will return for a sixth season. Linebacker Eldridge Thompson also hopes to be back but has not been granted a medical redshirt yet. He is waiting on a decision on his appeal.
Quarterback Jake Bentley, wide receiver Bryan Edwards and center Donell Stanley all explored the NFL Draft before deciding to return to school for their senior year.
“I think all the guys made really good decisions as far as where their draft status was,” Muschamp said. “We had good discussions and I thought our guys made very mature decisions in coming back.”
Bentley is expected to be the starting quarterback for the fourth straight season next year, but who will be the backup?
Redshirt freshman Dakereon Joyner and sophomore Jay Urich both return, while the Gamecocks signed highly-touted quarterback Ryan Hilinski, who will participate in spring practice. Muschamp said the backup job is wide open.
“It will be an open competition,” he said. “Jay and Dakereon have been here and Ryan will have an opportunity to compete there. All positions are open in the spring. You have got to create competition on your football team and you recruit good players to give them an opportunity to compete at all positions.”
A key question in spring practice is who will replace senior Dennis Daley at left tackle. Daley has started at left tackle the past two seasons, while backups Malik Young and Blake Camper also graduated.
Muschamp said he has plenty of options, including Sadarius Hutcherson, who has played guard the past two seasons, and sophomore Dylan Wonnum, who started at right tackle last year. He also mentioned redshirt freshman Max Iyama and sophomore Jordon Carty as options.