The South Carolina Gamecocks are just getting things cranked up during spring practice. It gives them their first chance to shake off an inconsistent 2018 season and move forward into 2019. Coach Will Muschamp will have more established players returning this season than he has had at any point in his tenure in Columbia. Despite having an abundance of returning experience, the team’s inconsistency leaves opportunities for new names to step up. There are five Gamecock players who could step forward to take on a larger role this season. Spring practice gives theses guys their first chance to show the coaches they are ready to become a bigger factor on the field.
Five Gamecock Players Who Should Step Forward
R.J. Roderick – Sophomore – Safety
The Summerville, SC native’s first taste of the safety position when he arrived on campus last season. He had to endure a crash course of learning as he was forced to play more than expected as a freshman. South Carolina’s secondary was hit hard by injuries, and Roderick stepped up in a big way. He finished fifth on the team in tackles, and also forced two fumbles. The sophomore brings a physicality and an attitude that the Gamecocks have been missing on the back end of their defense. As he continues to learn the position, he will be able to play faster as well. He could develop into a star in Coach Muschamp’s secondary.
Josh Vann – Sophomore – Wide Receiver
Star wide out Deebo Samuel is off to the NFL. His departure will leave a big hole in production for South Carolina to fill. Vann was in the rotation most of the 2018 season, and should see his opportunities increase. He had 18 catches for only 118 yards as a freshman. He has the third most catches of any returning players in garnet and black. Vann has yet to have any big plays, and he will need to improve his consistency. A spot is open for him to step into, it will be up to him to take advantage of the situation.
Kevin Harris – Freshman – Tailback
This may be the most surprising name among the Gamecock players to watch this spring. Harris is an early enrollee, having just signed last December. The 230 pound tailback is making some noise in his first few practices on campus. He was named Georgia’s region 2-AAAAAA Player of the Year as a senior. South Carolina has a new running backs coach, and Harris has a different running style than any of the current backs. If he impresses new coach Thomas Brown in the spring, he could make his way onto the field come fall. He is a power runner with good pad level and he likes to finish his runs with physicality. The Gamecocks could use that in their backfield.
Ernest Jones – Sophomore – Linebacker
Improving physicality is a theme when looking at the Gamecock players who need to step up. The inclusion of Jones on this list is no different. At 6’2″ 230 pounds, he brings the size you want for an SEC linebacker. He played sparingly as a freshman, but had some good moments. He only recorded 16 tackles in five games, but he did force and recover a fumble. Senior T.J. Brunson is out during spring practice, so Jones will has a chance to prove he can handle a bigger role. The Gamecocks’ linebackers struggled to play downhill, especially against the run, and must to improve in that area.
Sadrius Hutcherson – Junior – Offensive Tackle
This Tennessee native is not an unknown like the other players listed here. He has started for the last two seasons, mainly manning the left guard spot. Hutcherson has been a solid player along the South Carolina line since being inserted into the line-up as a freshman. This spring he is taking on a new challenge, moving to left tackle. His development in a new position will be a key to how the offensive line comes together.
The theme of this list is that South Carolina needs to improve its physicality on both sides of the ball. The defensive line also has a few Gamecock players who need to step forward into a bigger role to help this issue. With a daunting schedule and coming off an unbalanced season, Coach Muschamp’s team will need everyone to step their game up in 2019. These five players could all be big factors, if the Gamecocks as a program hope to take another step forward.