COLUMBIA, S.C. — Now that the 2017 regular season is over, SEC Country is ready to take its first look at the 2018 South Carolina football team.
Coming off an 8-4 (5-3 SEC) campaign under Will Muschamp, the Gamecocks have shown signs of life, on the heels of his first season, which ended at 6-7 after a Birmingham Bowl loss to South Florida.
South Carolina is widely expected to have a crack at one of the Florida bowls this year to close out Year 2 of the Muschamp era.
What are some of the storylines heading into next season?
Can Deebo stay healthy?
In his freshman and sophomore seasons, the star wide receiver dealt with hamstring injuries. As a junior, he fractured his leg then suffered another setback during rehab.
When healthy, Samuel is one of the most explosive players in college football. The results are impressive. Look at these numbers:
- 18 games
- 86 catches, 1,194 yards and 5 touchdowns
- 17 carries, 128 yards and 7 touchdowns
- 20 kick returns, 649 yards and 3 touchdowns
Samuel hasn’t played in more than 10 games in any season for the Gamecocks.
RELATED: End of season superlatives
Safeties Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith, plus cornerback JaMarcus King, have played a ton of snaps in Muschamp’s first two South Carolina secondaries.
Cornerback Rashad Fenton, safety Steven Montac and nickelback Jamyest Williams will be the most experienced of the bunch, which will feature a lot of fresh faces. Keisean Nixon had limited playing time at cornerback as a junior this season, but he’s got a couple of interceptions.
Cornerback Tavyn Jackson and safety Jaylin Dickerson would have played this season if they didn’t have to redshirt because of injury. Both will be firmly in the conversation for starting jobs in 2018. Safety Zay Brown, another soon-to-be redshirt freshman, has traveled with the team on road games.
Incoming freshmen R.J. Roderick and Jonathan Gipson profile as safeties. Former Auburn cornerback Marlon Character Jr. will arrive as a redshirt sophomore, following his junior college year in Mississippi. Another 1-2 defensive backs from the 2018 class remain in Muschamp’s crosshairs.
New starters on the OL
Alan Knott and Cory Helms will need to be replaced along the interior at center and guard. Right tackle will be up for grabs if Zack Bailey decided to go pro.
Sadarius Hutcherson is expected to join Donell Stanley at guard. Malik Young and Blake Camper have played right tackle for the Gamecocks. Bailey has played center, so he could potentially be an option there.
Three-star Under Armour All-American Hank Manos will arrive in January and has potential to be an early contributor at center.
RELATED: Nearing return to action
Next step guys
Eldridge Thompson, who will be a senior, will presumably be at the top of the depth chart for Skai Moore’s weakside linebacker spot, though Sherrod Greene could also be in the mix, along with a couple of freshmen, both redshirt and true.
A junior in 2018, middle linebacker T.J. Brunson will join Bryson Allen-Williams as one of the older, experienced leaders on a defense that’s only going to have a few seniors.
There’s a diverse set of intriguing options at tight end, assuming Hayden Hurst is off to the NFL: Jacob August, K.C. Crosby, Evan Hinson, Kyle Markway, Kiel Pollard and Will Register.
August has made a few plays as a receiver this season and Crosby has shown in the past that he’s a capable H-back option. Register, who committed to the Gamecocks before his junior year in high school, is a name to watch.
The coaching carousel is just starting to get cranked up and there’s bound to be some more movement over the next few weeks. In the current job climate, it seems as if almost anything could happen.
South Carolina co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper has been linked to the Rice job and could be on the move, even if that doesn’t come to fruition.
Roper’s co-offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon, could be a hot name for coaches looking to form new staffs, or even for a head coaching job that opens up once the dominoes start to fall.
The same could be said for defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson. Linebackers coach Coleman Hutzler might have an opportunity to take the next step in his coaching career.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Nothing’s happened yet.
The post Looking ahead to what’s in store for South Carolina football in 2018 appeared first on SEC Country.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.