The Gamecocks senior day festivities will be held Saturday before the game with Wofford. This current group of seniors on the South Carolina Gamecocks’ football team have been through a lot in their careers. Many of them joined a program coming off three straight eleven win seasons, only to see things unravel. Now they’ve gotten to be big parts of rebuilding things. It will be fitting that these players will be honored just a week after securing a winning record overall and in the SEC for 2017.
After working through the struggles of Steve Spurrier’s last two years in charge, they then had to adjust to a new head coach. Will Muschamp has often praised his older player’s ability and willingness to buy in to his system. The youth on this team has been well documented. Sometimes the impact of the upperclassmen goes a bit unnoticed. As Gamecock’s senior day approaches, we take a look at this team’s veterans and their impact this season.
Alan Knott, #70 – Center
The senior from Tyrone, Ga has been a mainstay on the Gamecock’s offensive line for his entire career. Inserted into the starting line-up as a freshman, he has never looked back. He has made 39 career starts, most among the current team. With all the injuries to hit the offensive line this year, Knott has started every game. He has been a consistent piece of the South Carolina offensive line, playing 45 games at center since 2014.
Cory Helms, #51 – Guard/Center
Helms earned Freshman All-American honors in 2013 at Wake Forest, starting eleven games at center. After playing mostly left guard as a sophomore for the Demon Deacons, he transferred to South Carolina. He sat out in 2015, but started every game last season. The Alpharetta, Ga native was named to the 2016 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll. He has mainly played right guard for the Gamecocks. Helms missed a few games early in the year due to a high ankle sprain.
D.J. Park, #69 – Guard/ Tackle
Park has been a reserve offensive lineman during his time at South Carolina. He has played all along the line, getting time at right tackle and both guard spots. He stepped in at times this season when multiple starters along the line got injured.
Hayden Hurst, #81 – Tight End
The big redhead from Jacksonville is only a red-shirt junior, but will be honored at the Gamecock’s senior day. After playing a few years of minor league baseball, he joined his friend and former quarterback Perry Orth at South Carolina. He has turned himself into a big time NFL prospect at the tight end position. Last season he set a record for most receptions by a Gamecock tight end with 48.
Hurst has been a versatile weapon again this season, with 35 catches, 480 yards and two touchdowns. His combination of size and mobility make him a nightmare for most defenses to match-up with. He is also an effective and willing blocker in the run game. The Gamecocks look to get him the ball in multiple ways, as he has even carried the ball on speed sweeps six times for 35 yards and a score this year.
Dante Sawyer, #95 – Defensive Tackle / End
This versatile defensive lineman came to South Carolina after a season at East Mississippi Community College. His 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss helped lead them to a NJCAA championship. Sawyer plays at both defensive end and tackle. Sawyer is fully healthy this year after dealing with injuries in each of the past two off seasons. His ability to have a full slate of off season workouts has lead to a more consistent performance in 2017. He has three sacks this season, bringing his career total to 6.5. He has a knack for making big plays too, as he has 4 forced fumbles.
Taylor Stallworth, #90 – Defensive Tackle
The 300 pound defensive tackle has become a major presence in garnet and black the last two seasons. After playing sparingly his first two years, he has started each of his last 23 games. Stallworth has become much more of a disruptive force as a senior. His ability to take up blocks and get a push on the interior of the line helps create opportunities for the rest of his teammates.
Ulric Jones, #97 – Defensive Tackle
Jones has played in every game the last two years, including eight starts in 2016. Like Stallworth, he is a big presence in the interior of the defensive line. While defensive tackles rarely rack up huge stats, their impact is still felt. The 6’5” 300 pound behemoth blocked two field goals last season. He got his first career sack earlier this year.
Skai Moore, #10 – Line Backer
Skai Moore will leave South Carolina as one of the best players in school history. A prototypical sideline to sideline linebacker, he uses his speed and instincts to make up for a perceived lack of size. He has a chance to be the first Gamecock to lead the team in tackles in four different seasons. Moore is also closing in on the school’s career interceptions record. He needs one more to tie Bo Davies’ mark of 14.
He has been brilliant in 2017 after having to sit out last year with a neck injury. Skai Moore’s return bolstered what would’ve been a very young linebacking core. His experience and play-making ability have helped lead this Gamecock defense. He has 68 tackles, 7 for a loss, and two sacks this season. Moore has two interceptions this year, including one against Arkansas which he returned for a touchdown. His production over the four seasons he has played in Columbia will lead to one of the biggest ovations at the Gamecock’s senior day.
Chris Lammons, #3 – Cornerback / Safety
Lammons has been a mainstay in the defensive backfield since he arrived on campus. He started seven games at corner as a true freshman. Last year he started all 13 games at either cornerback or nickelback. He was moved to safety this season and continues to show off his versatility. A two time SEC Academic Honor Roll member, his ability to read plays and adjust to different positions have made him invaluable to Coach Muschamp’s defense. He is third on the Gamecocks in tackles with 61, including three for a loss and one forced fumble. Lammons also returns punts, averaging 8.8 yards per return with a long of 26 yards.
Jamarcus King, #7 – Cornerback
King came to Columbia after spending a few years at junior college. He quickly earned a starting job at cornerback and has held that position for both his seasons in garnet and black. He had three interceptions as a junior, and has added another one in 2017. After struggling to start the season he has played very well the last few weeks. He leads the Gamecocks with 11 pass break-ups and also added a quarterback sack.
D.J. Smith, #24 – Safety
Smith finished 2016 tied for fourth in the SEC with 59 solo tackles. He has been a steady presence a safety for the last few seasons. Smith has played both safety spots. His versatility allows him to play the center field role at free safety, but he can also play close to the line and help against the run. He is a big hitter in the defensive backfield. Smith missed last week with a hip injury and may also miss this weekend’s game with Wofford.
Gamecock’s Senior Day
All these players will be honored on Saturday. Many of these guys have seen the program fall from the role of contender to that of an underdog. They also played integral parts in rebuilding this team and getting the program back on the right track. As they walk out for the Gamecocks’ senior day celebration, they can be proud knowing they fought through times of adversity and bettering the proud program. They will leave with the program heading in the right direction.
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