Now that the off-season is in full swing, most of the focus will be on recruiting and the high hopes signing day can bring. The Gamecocks have made some good inroads in Will Muschamp’s first two recruiting cycles. They have a solid class lined up for this year as well, including 13 early enrollees. Not all freshman make an immediate impact, and as a team builds its depth most of them will be a redshirt player. Two seasons ago, South Carolina was so short on roster depth that most of the incoming freshman had a chance to earn playing time. They continued to build that depth and the number of freshman playing went down in year two. There are a handful of guys that could have a big impact in 2018 as a redshirt player.
While there will certainly be a few of this seasons signees who make an impact in 2018. The redshirt player will already have a year of practice and learning, and are a step ahead. Learning the scheme and gaining positive reps helps players gain a confidence about what they are being asked to do. Sometimes a redshirt year will be more geared to give a young player a chance to grow physically, and get prepared for the grind of the SEC. We take a look at a few redshirt players who should produce in the upcoming season.
Jaylin Dickerson – Safety
Jaylin Dickerson was a midyear enrollee last season and turned heads in spring practice. He was in line for major playing time as a true freshman, but a shoulder injury forced him to miss the year. He will return in 2018 as the redshirt player most likely to make a big impact. The Gamecocks lose both D.J. Smith and Chris Lammons at the safety position. Dickerson will probably fill one of those roles. He was praised during last spring for his tackling and hard hitting. Coaches also spoke of his high football IQ, allowing him to pick up the defense quickly. He shined in the spring game as well, making plays all over the field.
M.J. Webb – Defensive Lineman
M.J. Webb was also a midyear enrollee from last season’s signing class. It was thought he may play some this year, but instead was given the year to learn. He will likely play inside at the tackle spot, but could also be used at end. He may fill the role that senior Dante Sawyer had this year, rotating between tackle and end depending on the situation. Webb is a big kid at 6’3” 290 pounds, but has the quickness and agility to play on the edge some as well. He should work his way into the defensive line rotation with return players; Javon Kinlaw, Kier Thomas, Kobie Smith, and Daniel Fennell. Webb landed the Defensive Scout Team Award for his work in practice this season.
Tavyn Jackson – Cornerback
This redshirt player from Tallahassee, Fl was in line for playing time this past season. Unfortunately, like Dickerson, an injury kept him off the field. Tavyn Jackson had a hamstring issue that lingered too long to allow him to make an impact in 2017. He was able to practice with the team as the season wore on. The nature of hamstring injuries had him on a limit of how many reps he got. He should be able to fill in at one of the cornerback spots in the upcoming season. He can play on the outside or in the nickel.
Red-Shirt Player On The Offensive
Will Register – Tight End
The big tight end from Chapin was the first commitment in South Carolina’s 2017 class. He joined what was probably the deepest position on the team at tight end. This allowed him to sit out a year and learn the offense and grow stronger in the weight room. While most of the Gamecocks’ tight ends will return, they lose their biggest play maker in Hayden Hurst. Will Register may be behind some of the returnees as far as blocking and physicality, but his size and athleticism could earn him playing time filling in Hurst’s pass catching role. Being at such a deep position he may still have to work his way into the rotation, but he will have a chance to make some things happen as a red-shirt player.
Eric Douglas – Offensive Lineman
Much like fellow redshirt player Webb, Eric Douglas was given the Offensive Scout Team Award for his work in practice this season. It is likely this freshman from Charlotte will get a crack at the starting center job vacated by Alan Knott’s graduation. The Gamecocks will return most of their offensive line rotation from 2017. The center spot will be up for grabs though. The versatile 300 pounder can play all along the line. His best potential is at guard or center. His versatility could be key even if he doesn’t win the starting center job. As this past season proved, injuries can come in bunches and having lineman who can fill in at multiple spots is helpful.
These players will all have an opportunity to work their way into the rotation at their respective positions. The Gamecocks lose the most of their 2017 departures from their secondary and defensive line. Expect Webb, Dickerson, and Jackson to get playing time early and often. Health will be a key factor for Dickerson and Jackson, but they should be fully recovered from what ailed them this past season. Although he is not a redshirt player, look for defensive back Kesean Nixon’s role to increase. He got more involved in the last month of the season and played well against Clemson and Michigan. He will help replenish the depth lost in the secondary as well.
The Gamecocks were one of the youngest teams in the country last year, but they are finally building the depth they need to compete. Adding these talented players into the mix will only help that process. Coach Will Muschamp appears to be building something here in Columbia. The development and impact of these young players is crucial to continuing that.
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