Projection of Gamecocks Depth Graph for 2022
COLUMBIA – In college football today, it’s harder than ever to project what a team’s depth graph might look like from day to day. Much less eight months in advance.
There are so many moving pieces in the puzzle. The transfer portal continues to gain popularity. There are super seniors who have a sixth year at their disposal. Where do incoming freshmen fit in?
South Carolina ended the 2021 season last week with a 38-21 win over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl record a winning record (7-6) in Shane Beamer’s first season as a coach.
The next time the Gamecocks enter any field, it will be for spring training, and it’s probably over four months from kickoff. But with those aforementioned moving parts, what comes out of the spring won’t be solidified with USC’s depth chart.
But look, with significant play not in the immediate future, here are my far too early two-depth projections for South Carolina in 2022:
Offensive in South Carolina
Quarterback: Spencer Rattler
This is perhaps the easiest projection to make regarding next season’s squad. Rattler, the former Oklahoma starter and five-star prospect, was not transferred to USC to get on the bench or split the reps. He reports on February 1 and will go through spring exercises. He will be the most talented quarterback on the roster from day one.
A bit of a startling guess, I see Dakereon Joyner staying on watch and supporting Rattler. His performance at the Duke’s Mayo Bowl showed exactly how he can help this team move forward.
running back: Juju McDowell
The freshman edged Marshawn Lloyd by just 20 yards and a touchdown in 2021. That projection has as much to do with the projection as it does McDowell’s production. He’s slightly smaller, but the jerk he brings into the run as well as the passing play (he caught nine balls for 53 yards) can’t be underestimated. Lloyd and freshman Rashad Amos could share their time as substitutes.
Everyone is back. Will this translate into further progression? That remains to be seen, but nothing replaces the amount of experience up front. Senior Eric Douglas has decided to return, and he is the center leader. Senior Jaylen Nichols on left tackle, junior Vershon Lee on left tackle, senior Jovaughn Gwyn on right guard and second student Tyshawn Wannamaker all look set to return to their positions in 2022. For the replacements, Dylan Wonnum, Jakai Moore, Hank Manos and Wyatt Campbell will push for time.
Tight Wing: Austin Stogner
The Gamecocks were the perfect fit for Stogner, another transfer from Oklahoma. There is a need with the departure of Nick Muse, but also he played for Beamer in Norman. Stogner can stretch a pitch at the narrow end and has shown great playing ability. He already has excellent chemistry with Rattler. Behind him will be EJ Jenkins, who should get plenty of snaps.
Wide receivers: Jaheim Bell, Josh Vann, Xavier Legette
My other offensive guess is that offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield is officially moving Jaheim Bell to a receiving position, probably at the lunge. He’s arguably the most athletic player in the Gamecocks, and lining him up inside allows him to continue that extra dimension he had in bowl play.
Josh Vann has announced his return, and the USC main receiver is set for another big year, especially with Rattler in quarterback. As of now, Legette is the other best option out there. He had eight catches for 63 yards and one touchdown in 2021.
Ahmarean Brown, Omega Blake and Trey Adkins are expected to be replacements, but I expect the top two to have plenty of playing time.
Defense of South Carolina
Ends: Jordan Burch, Jordan Strachan
The Gamecocks took a hit at the end, lose both Kingsleys “JJ” Enagbare and Aaron Sterling. The good news is that they have two guys who have played a bunch of clichÃ©s, ready to take on bigger roles in Jordan Strachan and Jordan Burch. Burch lost 2.5 tackles last season and Strachan had three sacks, the team’s second best. Hot Rod Fitten and Gibler Edmond are expected to be the replacements.
Defensive tackles: Zacch Pickens, Rick Sandidge
The return of former TL Hanna star Zacch Pickens to the center of the attack was a big win for Beamer and defensive coordinator Clayton White. Pickens led the sack defense with four in 2021 in his best season so far in Colombia. Scheduled to start, Sandidge missed last season with injury. He will likely retain his role in 2022. Alex Huntley closed strongly last season and Tonka Hemingway and MJ Webb gave South Carolina some quality shots. All three will be valuable second teams.
Linebackers: Brad Johnson, Sherrod Greene
Johnson’s return was another victory for the Gamecocks. They’re slim to linebacker, and he’s just had a terrific season. Sherrod Greene was off to a good start to 2021 before a knee injury ended the season in Georgia. With the return of Johnson and Greene, the linebacker will be a force for USC. Debo Williams and Mo Kaba will add depth.
Cornerbacks: Cam Smith, Darius Rush
There are few cornerback duos in the country that will have a total of 27 passes defended next season. But South Carolina will have that at Cam Smith junior and Darius Rush senior. Former Woodruff star Marcellas Dial and Hanna’s Isaiah Norris will open as substitutes.
Safety: RJ Roderick, Tyrese Ross
With the departure of Jaylan Foster, it was important for the Gamecocks to bring RJ Roderick back as high school captain. Roderick was fourth on the team in tackles and has become a consistent force at the back. Ross fought for game time last fall but didn’t quite break through. He will likely have a bigger role next season as White loves his physique. Jaylin Dickerson and Cam Hardy will likely be the replacements.
Nickelback: David Spaulding
Spaulding played all 13 games of his first season at USC, starting several. He will give the defense even more experience in the nickel position as a junior. Joey Hunter could be his replacement in early spring.
South Carolina Specialists
Kicker: Mitch Jeter
Filling Parker White’s shoes won’t be easy, but Jeter has some experience with the game.
Bettor: Kai Kroeger
Kroeger did different things for the Gamecocks in 2021, like throwing touchdown passes. But he will be the SEC’s top returning bettor in 2022.
Turners: Ahmarean Brown
Obviously, USC will have a few guys returning the kickoffs, but Brown could handle both the kickoff and punt duties for the Gamecocks next year.
Cory Diaz covers the South Carolina Gamecocks for The Greenville News as part of the USA Today Network. Follow his work for all things Gamecocks on Twitter: @CoryDiaz_TGN