South Carolina football: Handing out end-of-season superlatives

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The South Carolina football team notched an 8-4 regular season record in the second season of the Will Muschamp era.

It was a step in the right direction for the Gamecocks, coming off of last season’s 6-6 regular-season finish, which included a 3-5 record against SEC teams. This season, South Carolina went 5-3 against league opponents and finished alone in second place in the SEC East.

SEC Country hands out some postseason awards to the team’s top performers in 2017:

RELATED: Midseason awards

Offensive MVP: Jake Bentley

Sophomore quarterback Jake Bentley has passed for 2,555 yards with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while completing nearly 62 percent of his passes. He also leads the team with 6 rushing touchdowns, which is tied for the overall team lead in total touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Deebo Samuel scored 6 in less than three games before being injured.

Even though Bentley closed with a flurry of interceptions — 7 total against Georgia, Florida and Clemson — he went more than a month between picks during the middle of the season.

Defensive MVP — Skai Moore

Linebacker Skai Moore hasn’t skipped a beat since returning to the field from a neck injury that forced him to redshirt in 2016. The senior linebacker took over the team lead in tackles late in the season and appears to be on track to finish that way, as he’s done the other three years on the field for South Carolina.

In addition to his 85 tackles, Moore also leads the team with 3 interceptions. For his career, he’s tied with Bo Davies for the school record (14).

Offensive Rookie of the Year — Dennis Daley

Dennis Daley’s long-awaited arrival went pretty well. After entering the lineup as the starting left tackle against Kentucky, he hasn’t looked back. He helped solidify that side of the line, particularly in pass protection. The junior college transfer has one season remaining as Bentley’s blind-side protector.

South Carolina football
Dennis Daley has started 10 games at left tackle. (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

Defensive Rookie of the Year — Javon Kinlaw

Jason Kinlaw, the sophomore defensive tackle, has started every game since entering the first 11 against Louisiana Tech. Kinlaw helped strengthen the interior of the defensive line with senior Taylor Stallworth. Kinlaw’s 18 tackles and 2 tackles for loss won’t jump off the stat sheet, but he’s been able to help Moore and sophomore linebacker T.J. Brunson make a lot of plays behind him.

Offense, most improved — Mon Denson

Normally, 148 yards rushing with 2 touchdowns by a running back would be overlooked, but Mon Denson’s work came at a critical time for the Gamecocks offense, which was pretty punchless on the ground at times this season. Denson, a redshirt sophomore, emerged as a reliable No. 2 or No. 3 option when sophomore starter Rico Dowdle went down with an injury.

Defense, most improved — D.J. Wonnum

No player from Muschamp’s first South Carolina signing class made a bigger jump from Year 1 to Year 2 than D.J. Wonnum. He leads the team with 6 sacks, but his work as a run-stopper has been just as valuable. His 13 total tackles for loss is also tops among Gamecock defenders.

The post South Carolina football: Handing out end-of-season superlatives appeared first on SEC Country.

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