With kickoff just over two weeks away, let’s take a look at how the Gamecocks could be lining up this season.
It is important to note that these are not predictions for week one, rather for a little later in the season once things have started to play out and guys have settled in a little bit.
DE1, Aaron Sterling, DE2, Kingsley Enagbare, DE3, Joseph Anderson
Buck1, Jordan Burch, Buck2, Rodricus Fitten
DT, Keir Thomas, Zacch Pickens, DT2, Rick Sandidge, Jabari Ellis, DT3, Alex Huntley, Devontae Davis
The defensive line is certainly one of, if not the deepest units on the entire team.
This group has a lot of versatility as many of the players on the defensive front are capable of moving around and playing both interior or outside. Aaron Sterling has no reason to relinquish his starting role after leading the team in sacks last season, but his depth is very strong.
Enagbare and Anderson were both very high level recruits and should find their way onto the field frequently just like they have the past couple seasons.
The Buck position is less clear but there is almost no wrong answer to fill the void. Jordan Burch should end up playing valuable minutes there, especially as the season goes on.
He has already impressed coaches during camp and it is expected that he will improve with each week that goes by.
As far as the interior defensive line, expect to see a lot of rotation going on due to the groups depth and versatility.
Kier Thomas returns again and should have another big role this year. Zacch Pickens should step into a starting role after the departure of first round pick Javon Kinlaw.
After spending a year learning from the vet and still making the freshman All-SEC team, Pickens is primed for a breakout season in 2020.
Rick Sandidge and Jabari Ellis provide immediate depth that could probably be starters on most teams in the country.
There is also young talent like Alex Huntley, Tonka Hemingway, and Makius Scott waiting behind the two deep.
MLB1, Ernest Jones, MLB2, Rosendo Louis, MLB3, Damani Staley
SLB1, Brad Johnson, SLB2, Rosendo Louis, SLB3, Mohamed Kaba
WLB1, Sherrod Greene, WLB2, Jahmar Brown, WLB3, Mohamed Kaba
The linebacker room has more experienced players than it has had in a long time.
Ernest Jones and Sherrod Greene are talented upperclassmen, who combine for 36 career starts. Jones led the team in tackles last season and was named to the preseason All-SEC third team for 2020.
Brad Johnson has transitioned from the Buck position and lost significant weight to be able to play strong side linebacker. Coaches are very pleased with how he has played that position so far in practice and he should end up starting at that position barring an injury or something unforeseen.
The depth at this position is better than it has been at any point in the Muschamp era.
Sophomore Jahmar Brown is developing into a quality player, who can play either SAM or WILL for the Gamecocks.
Mohamed Kaba is a very talented true freshman who will certainly find his way onto the field this year, especially if he can figure out the system quickly.
Rosendo Louis was another blue chip recruit who has dealt with injury, but when healthy, should be a quality player for Muschamp’s unit after a couple years learning the system.
All in all, this linebacker room should be exciting to watch and they will be all over the field.
CB1, Jaycee Horn, Israel Mukuamu, CB2. Cam Smith, John Dixon, CB3, Shilo Sanders, Joey Hunter
S1, RJ Roderick, Jammie Robinson, S2, Jaylin Dickerson, Dominick Hill
N1, Cam Smith, N2, John Dixon, N3, Shilo Sanders
Quite possibly the best unit on the entire team, the secondary should cause trouble for quarterbacks and receivers every game.
Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu have both already received first round draft projections for next years cycle. Both have been named to the preseason All-SEC team by Athlon, and Mukuamu already has an All-Conference accolade under his belt from last season.
The awards don’t end there, as Jammie Robinson made the All-SEC freshman team last season and returns to presumably start at safety and also get some reps at nickel.
He will be alongside hard hitting strong safety RJ Roderick. The junior played mostly quarterback in high school, but has made 16 starts in his first two seasons at safety and has shown the ability to play solid SEC ball.
Cam Smith has the tools to be an NFL corner one day, but should at least get some snaps at nickel.
Packages are in place for Mukuamu to play some safety, so Smith could definitely get an opportunity if that becomes prominent.
A pair of redshirt freshmen, John Dixon and Shilo Sanders, should both see starting roles in the future, but will provide some quality depth for the time being.
Both of them should find the field and are contenders to get serious reps at the nickel position.
At the end of the day, this secondary is filled with talent, experience and young potential and will be one of the strong points of the team.