The South Carolina Gamecocks are trending up as the offseason gets underway. Shane Beamer has brought new life and positivity into the program after a few bad years on the gridiron. From winning their bowl game to a solid recruiting class to some big pic-ups in the transfer portal, the momentum for 2022 is building in Columbia. Despite the buzz around the program right now, there are plenty of things to improve upon. If this team wants to continue trending in the right direction, there are multiple Gamecock players that need to step up.
Gamecock Players That Need to Step Up in 2022
One of the biggest bright spots last season was the amount of Gamecock players that made huge strides under the first-year coaching staff. The most notable were Josh Vann and Brad Johnson. Those two spent years under the staff that recruited them and never could produce consistently. They both had very strong seasons last fall and will return for one more run.
Darius Rush spent a few seasons fighting to get snaps at both receiver and defensive back but could never breakthrough. His improvement and performances at corner this past year were as surprising as they were impressive. As this program moves forward, they will need more guys to take similar leaps in their abilities and production. Here is a look at the most notable candidates for 2022.
Mohamed Kaba – Linebacker
The third-year man from North Carolina will be looking to expand his role in garnet and black. Johnson is returning, but Damani Staley will be gone next year so that will open an opportunity. Kaba has shown some flashes as a backup, but still has plenty of room to grow. If he can develop into a consistently productive defender, South Carolina will have one of its deepest linebacking groups in quite a while. Sherrod Greene also returns, along with a couple of talented freshmen. Kaba will have a chance to secure a starting spot with a strong spring. His progression would also allow Greene not to rush his recovery and give the youngsters time to adjust to college football.
E.J. Jenkins – Wide Receiver
Like a lot of the offense, Jenkins was underused during the 2021 season. He had just eight catches and one touchdown after transferring from St. Francis. Now with Spencer Rattler coming in at quarterback, he has a chance to be a much more valuable weapon on this offense. His frame should make him a threat in the red zone. The Gamecocks didn’t utilize that option enough in his first season in Columbia. Jenkins needs to shore up his route running but should get more opportunities with a better passing attack in 2022. The staff needs to find ways to better use his size and skill.
JuJu McDowell – Running Back
As a freshman, the shifty tailback showed flashes of his big play ability. South Carolina will hit the reset button in the backfield in 2022. Last year’s two leading rushers Kevin Harris and Zaquandre White are both off to the NFL. This will provide more chances for McDowell to get the ball on both carries and catches out of the backfield. He had over 300 yards and four touchdowns during his first season in garnet and black. McDowell has the burst and elusiveness to give defenses fits. His big-play ability is needed in this offense. He had two big plays in the fourth quarter at East Carolina, both helping set up scores. The Georgia native is also a factor on special teams, averaging 27 yards per kickoff return.
Ahmarean Brown – Wide Receiver
The Georgia Tech transfer could not find a spot in the South Carolina offense for most of the 2021 season. He was supposed to bring Power Five experience and high-level speed when he arrived. Unfortunately, the quarterback carousel and overall inconsistency of the offense kept anyone from putting up big numbers. Brown did save his best game for last, with four grabs and 61 yards in the bowl victory over North Carolina. His speed could really help this offense, giving them a downfield threat and ultimately opening room underneath the coverage for Vann and Jaheim Bell.
Jordan Burch – Defensive End
Of all the Gamecock players that need to step up in 2022, the former five-star from right here in Columbia is the most exciting. He has the potential to be a game-changer along the defensive front. Burch has the size and skill set to be dominant. He now must learn and execute the fundamentals consistently so he can showcase his talent. With Kingsley Enagbare off to the NFL, Burch will jump into the starting line-up. He showed his athleticism with his 61-yard interception return in the season opener. Burch got extended playing time in the bowl game and had a career-high five tackles. He and former high school teammate Alex Huntley both had moments in that contest where they showed off their potential. Burch will see his snaps and opportunities increase this fall, and he has the talent to become a problem for opposing offenses.