During his first two seasons in Columbia, Will Muschamp had to rely heavily on youth. Now that he is beginning to establish more depth on the roster, he doesn’t have to rush his young players on to the field. South Carolina is still thin in some areas, so there is a need and opportunities for freshman to play early. Of course, if you are talented enough, playing time will come regardless of how young or old you are. While not as many first year guys are having to play right away, the Gamecocks’ freshmen are still having an impact.
On the Offensive
South Carolina returned a veteran group on offense this season. The past two seasons they had to play a ton of young guys as Muschamp built the roster. This year that need has subsided. There are still a few of the Gamecocks’ freshmen seeing some playing time on offense.
Josh Vann – Wide Receiver
Josh Vann earned praise during fall camp for his athleticism and his knack for making difficult catches. South Carolina is stocked with experienced wide-outs so it has taken him a while to break through into the rotation. The 5’10” 185 pounder has played in six of the eight games this season. He has 12 receptions for 89 yards, and scored his first career touchdown at Ole Miss. With injuries mounting up across the roster, expect to see Vann get more opportunities in the last four games.
Dylan Wonnum – Right Tackle
The big man from Georgia was a huge recruiting get for Muschamp. His brother D.J. is a three year starter at defensive end, and now the younger brother is beginning to make his mark. Dylan Wonnum took over the starting right tackle position during the bye week. South Carolina has had three of their more consistent offensive performances in his starts. You can expect to see the younger Wonnum holding down one of the tackle spots in garnet and black for the next few seasons.
The South Carolina defense lost several senior starters from last season. That has given chances for some of the Gamecocks’ freshmen to get on the field early on that side of the ball. A few of them had stood out and been counted on in big roles, but there are also a handful of young guys who are helping to add depth.
Jaycee Horn – Cornerback
Jaycee Horn has been one of the best players on the field for Muschamp’s defense this season. He has emerged as an impact player with a very bright future. Horn has been excellent in coverage, breaking up eight passes on the year. He has 38 tackles including three for a loss and one sack on the season. The son of former NFL All-Pro Joe Horn is a potential All-SEC player. His biggest play may have been when he chased down the Missouri tailback on a long run and clipped his heels forcing him to step out of bounds. Instead of a walk in touchdown, Missouri would go backwards and fail to score from the ten yard line. The Gamecocks then captured momentum and completed their comeback.
Rick Sandidge Jr – Defensive Tackle
Just like the younger Wonnum, Rick Sandidge Jr. was a huge recruiting pick up for Coach Muschamp. The 6’5” 290 pound defensive tackle has brought depth and power to the interior of the defensive line. He picked up his first half of a sack in the victory over Ole Miss. Sandidge Jr has seven tackles for the season. His playing time has increased in the last few games, and should continue to do so moving forward.
R.J. Roderick – Safety
The youngster from Summerville, SC had never played defensive back before enrolling early at South Carolina. He was a quarterback in high school, but has taken to his new position since arriving. R.J. Roderick has seen his playing time increase each week, and is now a starter at safety. The youngster has 33 tackles in seven games. He will be relied on heavily in the last three games considering how hard injuries have hit the Carolina secondary.
Starting to Show
There are a couple of the Gamecocks freshmen that are beginning the see the field more each week. Linebackers Rosendo Louis and Damani Staley saw their most snaps on defense in the victory over Ole Miss. Louis is a prototypical SEC linebacker with his great size. Staley is a red-shirt freshman, and son of former Gamecock star Duce Staley. Each of these should see their snaps and production continue to increase. Defensive Lineman Kingsley Enagbare has also seen the field more since the bye week. He was a disruptive force against Tennessee. Israel Mukuamu has seen spot duty in the secondary, but should get more time on the field with the injuries Carolina has suffered in their defensive backfield.
The Gamecocks’ freshman have not needed to be as prominent a part of the team as they have in the past few seasons. Players like Wonnum, Horn, and Sandidge have already shown that they will be play makers in garnet black over the next few seasons. The rest of this freshman class is getting some valuable experience that will help them contribute as this season ends and in the future.