COLUMBIA, S.C.—Now that the smoke has cleared from national signing day, it's a good time to take a look at South Carolina's recruiting class and project which players have the best chance of playing right away and which players are likely headed for redshirt seasons.
In last year's class, which numbered 18 scholarship players after some early season attrition, six freshmen played while the rest redshirted.
This year's class of 21 may offer more opportunity for first-year players just because of immediate need on the defensive line and at cornerback.
The Gamecocks lost their top three cornerbacks from last season. Sophomore Rico McWilliams is South Carolina's most experienced returning player at cornerback, and will have the benefit of another spring under his belt before the incoming class arrives.
He's likely to have a relatively firm grasp on one of the starting spots entering the fall, but he's going to be pressed to hold on to it.
Another 4-start corner, D.J. Smith, will also likely play his way into the secondary rotation at corner simply because of need. Smith's ultimate destination will probably be safety.
Likewise, 3-star corner Al Harris should factor in because of need.
The lone remaining corner in the class, Darin Smalls, will almost certainly redshirt while recovering from a knee injury.
Things are a bit trickier to assess on the defensive line. Even though the Gamecocks lose three of four starters, there is an abundance of returning talent with experience that will make cracking the rotation a bit harder for incoming players.
Look first to Abu Lamin, a 4-star junior college transfer at defensive tackle who is already enrolled and eligible to participate in the spring.
There are questions whether Dexter Wideman will qualify, but if he does he'll likely play at either end or tackle.
Blake McClain, whom the Gamecocks lured away from Nebraska at the last second, also has a shot but it wouldn't be a surprise if he redshirts.
Even though South Carolina's young linebackers played well last season, there's plenty of room for Bryson Allen-Williams to make an immediate impact.
With three quarterbacks solidly entrenched ahead of him, signee Michael Scarnecchia is almost certainly headed for a redshirt year.
Finally, fullback/inside linebacker Joe Blue is a likely redshirt, unless he proves himself worthy as a special teams player.
So the projection here is nine of 21 will probably play as freshman and more are possible.
One thing head coach Steve Spurrier has already proven in nine seasons at South Carolina is he's not afraid to play anyone who has earned the opportunity, regardless of experience.
All star ratings courtesy of 247Sports.
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