Due to weather cancellations and rescheduling early in the season, South Carolina still has one home game remaining this weekend. Their game with Marshall was canceled in week three, and they have replaced that contest with a match-up against the Akron Zips. This will allow the Gamecock seniors one last chance to play at Williams-Brice Stadium. The bulk of this team is still very young, but there are plenty of experienced contributors that will play their final game in Columbia on Saturday. This class has seen a lot; from a nine loss season, to a coaching carousel, to a rebuild, then to last season’s nine victories. Sitting at 6-5, these Gamecock seniors have not had the sendoff they planned, but they still have two chances to play and win in the garnet and black.
Recognizing the Gamecock Seniors
Along The Line
One of the biggest positions hit by this outgoing class will be the offensive line. Two starters and two main back-ups all will all suit up for their final game in Columbia against Akron. Guard Zach Bailey has been a force on the inside of the line for the past few seasons. He is likely to receive some All-SEC recognition this year and should hear his named called during the NFL Draft. He enters Saturday with 37 career starts. Dennis Daley joined the team last season from junior college and has held down the left tackle spot most of the time since his arrival. Daley made 11 starts as a junior, and has started all but one game this season. He could also hear his named called in May’s draft.
Blake Camper began the year as the starter at right tackle. He took over the position near the end of his junior year and held on to it through fall camp. He played solid during the first six games of the season, but was beat out by freshman Dylan Wonnum during the bye week. Camper then had to come in at left tackle against Ole Miss due to injuries, and played well. Tackle Malik Young has been the Gamecocks most reliable back up lineman for the past few seasons. He has played multiple positions, and gotten starts at both tackle and guard during his career. The offensive line was very good for South Carolina all season; these Gamecock seniors will be missed in the trenches.
Deebo is a Bad Man
Deebo Samuel will leave Carolina as one of the most exciting players to ever don the garnet and black. He is coming off a 210 yard, three touchdown performance against Clemson. After a slow start to his senior campaign, he has exploded in the past few weeks. He has three straight 100 yard games, and could end the season with over 1,000 yards receiving yards. The electric play-maker has 144 catches, 2,043 yards, and 14 touchdowns for his career. The versatile Samuel also has seven career rushing scores. Against Ole Miss he broke the school record for kick-off return touchdowns with four, which also ties him for the SEC record.
Samuel has been making big plays for the Gamecocks for four years now. His speed, explosiveness, and toughness will be remembered long after he has moved on to play at the next level. Samuel was a potential big play every time he touched the ball, often turning short passes into long gains with his vision and burst.
End of the Line
Two of the more unheralded of the Gamecock seniors are Jacob August and K.C. Crosby. The two tight ends have been steady performers the last few seasons. August is more of a blocker, his physicality helping both the running game and keeping Jake Bentley upright. For his career he has 20 catches for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Crosby has battled injuries often during his time in Columbia, but has been productive when he is on the field. He has 36 catches, 329 yards and four scores over the last few seasons. Crosby’s biggest moment is his touchdown catch and subsequent end zone shimmy in a 2016 an upset of Tennessee.
The South Carolina secondary has been decimated by injuries in 2018. Graduate transfers J.T. Ibe and Nick Harvey were not able to contribute the way they had planned due to so much missed time. However, three mainstays in the secondary will be suiting up in Columbia for the last time against Akron. Rashad Fenton, Keisean Nixon, and Steven Montac have done all they can this season to keep their injury riddled unit intact. Fenton had three interceptions early this year, but like last season has seen his effectiveness and production wane in the latter parts of the year. His coverage skills have been praised for portions of his career, but he also tends to draw a few too many pass interference penalties. Fenton’s experience and abilities will not be easily replaced.
Nixon has been a solid contributor at corner this season. He gets targeted more often than most because of the coverage ability of Fenton and freshman Jaycee Horn opposite him in the secondary. While he has allowed his share of plays, Nixon also leads the team in passes defended with eight. He had a pick six in a 2017 blowout of Arkansas. Montac is second on the team in tackles with 69, but his season has not been a productive as hoped. He earned a reputation last season as a turnover creator. Unfortunately, Montac has not been able to force as many takeaways in 2018.
Second Chance Senior
For the second season in a row, Bryson Allen-Williams had his senior year cut short due to injury. Last year it happened in week three, allowing him to redshirt and comeback. He was South Carolina’s best play maker on defense before a hand injury forced him to miss these last three games. His ten tackles for loss still lead the team. For his career he has 25 tackles for loss, six and a half sacks, four interceptions, and four fumble recoveries.
The Georgia native was as versatile as he was disruptive on defense. He has played both linebacker and defensive end throughout his career. While his versatility has been invaluable to the South Carolina coaches, its a wonder how good he could have been if he had not had to play out of his natural position so often. His knack for big plays has been missed down the stretch as the defense has struggled.
These Gamecock seniors will have one last chance to run on to the field to 2001 this Saturday. The game feels out of place since it’s a make-up game, but it is still a chance for fans to thank these players for their time and effort in the garnet and black. This group helped this program rebound from a nine loss season and will leave with three consecutive bowl trips. The likes of Zach Bailey, Deebo Samuel, Rashad Fenton, and Bryson Allen-Williams will go down as some of the best players to come through Columbia.
The Gamecock seniors have been apart of 24 wins, and have a chance for back to back eight win seasons. Those numbers may seem modest, they are still things that haven’t been done too often in South Carolina’s history. This group helped rebuild a foundation of winning, now it is up to the young players on the team to continue building on that.
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