ICYMI, South Carolina football released their latest two-deep depth chart ahead of SEC Media Days:
I asked you, the fans, what were some of the most intriguing position battles you were looking forward to keeping an eye on this fall:
Which position battle will you be paying most attention to this fall?— The Spurs Up Show (@TheSpursUpShow) July 15, 2019
Let’s try to make sense of this depth chart as I give you three key position battles I’ll be keeping a close eye on as we inch closer to kickoff.
FR Ryan Hilinski vs. RS FR Dakereon Joyner
This is the one EVERYONE wants to talk about.
There’s no doubt the starting quarterback position is set, with Jake Bentley returning looking to rewrite the Carolina record books.
However, the Gamecocks find themselves with questions behind him for the first time since the 2016 season.
Joyner saw very limited action a year ago, but showed flashes of his athleticism and game breaking ability.
Ryan Hilinski, to no surprise, has been a fan favorite since stepping foot on campus in January.
Hilinski showed his superb arm talent in the spring game, making difficult throws all over the field.
The biggest wild card in this battle will be Dakereon Joyner’s passing.
Can the redshirt freshman from North Charleston show enough through the air to give him the nod over Hilinski?
Dakereon Joyner should be used a bunch in redone packages, an area where the Gamecocks struggled mightily a year ago.
However, I would be shocked if the highly touted blue chipper out of California doesn’t lock down the backup role by August 31st.
SR Rico Dowdle vs. Everyone
This battle hinges a lot on what Clemson transfer Tavien Feaster decides over the next few weeks.
Either way, let’s go off of what we know: Rico Dowdle (at this point) will probably be your starting running back against UNC in 46 days.
Dowdle has been plagued by inconsistency and injuries, having never reached his full potential since bursting on the scene as a true freshman in 2016.
Mon Denson, A.J. Turner, Kevin Harris and Deshaun Fenwick round out a very crowded backfield full of guys all looking for carries.
I would argue Denson is the most consistent of all the backs. While he’s not flashy, Denson ran with a toughness and tenacity USC fans came to expect from him week in and week out.
It appears A.J. Turner’s time being a feature back are over, as Will Muschamp has him splitting time at defensive back as well.
Deshaun Fenwick looked good in limited action a year ago, but has been far too inconsistent according to new running backs coach Thomas Brown.
That leaves freshman Kevin Harris.
Harris is a bowling ball type runner, shedding defenders with his big bodied frame. He impressed coaches this spring and provided fans with a highlight reel run in spring practice.
Simply put, the Gamecocks absolutely need more production from this group, no matter who is taking the handoffs.
SR A.J. Turner vs. JR Shi Smith vs. ???
Gamecock fans truly came to appreciate how much special teams could impact a game over Deebo Samuel’s last two seasons.
With Samuel now gone to the NFL, South Carolina is left searching for it’s next playmaker in that department.
There are a few guys on this team who have done it before, most notably A.J. Turner, who did have some success in that department in 2016.
Beyond that, USC should be breaking in a new face, looking for that guy who can provide a spark in the special teams department.
While I do think A.J. is a bit underrated in regards to a big play threat, I don’t think he’s your primary kick returner when South Carolina opens the season against UNC.
Names like Shi Smith, Jamyest Williams, Jammie Robinson, Josh Vann, etc. all come to mind as guys who should get a shot to be the guy who returns kicks.
It may be impossible to replicate the type of success Deebo Samuel had as a returner.
However, the Gamecocks certainly have a plethora of guys to choose from who should be able to make it an easier than expected transition.