South Carolina picked up several talented players in the 2011 class.
Some were able to make an immediate impact like defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and tight end Rory Anderson. Others ended up as players who redshirted for the Gamecocks in 2011.
This means South Carolina will have some fresh new faces to utilize in the 2012 season and these players could help Steve Spurrier build on this strong 2011 season.
There are certain positions like cornerback and wide receiver that could receive a boost from these redshirt freshman in 2012. The Gamecocks lost star player Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffery at those positions and will certainly need some new players to step up and fill the void.
Here's a look at some of the redshirt freshmen to watch out for in 2012.
Cedrick Cooper was a guy that caught the eye of former Gamecock defensive coordinator at the linebacker position.
Cooper is a talented player with big hitting ability at the linebacker spot. The South Carolina roster lists him as 6'2" and 207 pounds.
Don't let that size fool you. Before he got to Columbia, Cooper claimed a 35-inch vertical leap with the ability to bench 320 pounds and squat 410 pounds.
I'd say that's a pretty strong guy. He's got the quickness to come from the outside and knows what to do when he encounters an opponent with the football.
He was close to playing in 2011, but he should become a guy that makes a name for himself in 2012.
South Carolina picked up Sheldon Royster from up north in New Jersey and nearly had him penciled into the lineup right away.
However, a battle with some health issues caused him to miss a lot of practice time and ended up redshirting for the Gamecocks.
This may end up working out well for the Gamecocks, as Royster will have a chance to work behind DeVonte Holloman and D.J. Swearinger at the safety positions for another year and work his way into rotation.
Royster is an athletic player who can do it all. He played a variety of positions in high school but has the skills to succeed in the Gamecocks' defensive scheme.
Look for Royster to earn a lot of playing time in 2012 and become a staple of the lineup in the near future.
South Carolina has another Jeffery at the wide receiver position who is expected to step up in 2012.
However, there is another wide receiver that redshirted as a true freshman in 2011 that could become a steady receiving threat for the Gamecocks. That's K.J. Brent.
Brent was the first commitment for South Carolina in the 2011 recruiting class and he stood strong with his commitment to the Gamecocks. Brent was expected to redshirt his freshman season but he was extremely impressive in fall camp and almost earned himself some playing time.
He's got good size standing 6'3", making him a nice target for quarterback Connor Shaw. The thing that was most impressive was his hands. He seemed to come down with the tough catches and could be a nice possession receiver for the Gamecocks.
2012 will be a transition year at wide receiver for South Carolina, but Brent is one of the guys looking to step up and help make it a smooth one.
South Carolina needs some help at cornerback now that Stephon Gilmore has declared for the NFL Draft.
Ahmad Christian could be the answer.
Christian was another player from the 2011 class that came in and almost wound up earning playing time with his impressive performance. Christian has the speed to play corner and can play safety if he needs to, but that won't be necessary.
He'll play cornerback for the Gamecocks and should be in the two-deep from the start of spring practice. Christian is a fast player who could get into the return game as well.
He's a two-sport athlete starring in baseball as well, so the pedigree for success is there.
Ahmad Christian could play a lot in 2012 for the Gamecocks. This may not be a bad thing.
The Gamecocks have a few others name to watch for in 2012 as players who could step up as redshirt freshmen. A few of them are:
- DT Phillip Dukes
- QB Tanner McEvoy
- WR Shamier Jeffery
- OL Brandon Shell
Dukes could end up starting for the Gamecocks if he performs well in spring practice and fall camp. McEvoy needs to show that he has progressed well in the offseason in order to get a chance to be Connor Shaw's backup quarterback.
Jeffery would love to replace his older brother Alshon here at South Carolina and he's got a chance to do that. Shell will be a potential starter for South Carolina in 2012 and should be a force from the start of spring practice.
The majority of these players in this slide have been mentioned in a previous article.
They all certainly stand a chance to make a huge impact for the Gamecocks this upcoming season. Expectations should be high again for South Carolina.
Gamecock fans just hope these players are ready for the challenge.