South Carolina Football: 4 Gamecocks Who Could Surprise People This Spring
The South Carolina Gamecocks did not lose too many players after the 2013 season, and return with a lot of talent and depth on the 2014 team.
With spring practices about to heat up, players are jockeying to land bigger roles at their respective positions.
South Carolina is still a younger team, but now younger players have some experience and certainly don't lack talent. There are some spots to fill on both sides of the ball, so players need to step up now and make early impressions for increased playing time this fall.
With a team this stacked with talent, anyone has the potential to surprise this spring. Last season, we saw Mike Davis become an emerging superstar, and maybe South Carolina will see another breakout player this spring.
It's tough to pick who will surprise people this spring, but here are my four Gamecocks who will do just that.
Jordan Diggs lurked in Sharrod Golightly's shadow last year at the "Spur" linebacker position. While Golightly is back for a fifth year, Diggs has a good chance of surprising the staff.
Golightly was not bad at the position. In fact, he turned into a strong player by the end of the year. But, he also didn't hold the type of presence necessary to intimidate opposing offenses. He's a smaller SPUR, which makes it difficult for him to match up with big tight ends and wide receivers in coverage. As a special teams player until stepping up to the call of duty to play the SPUR, Golightly was raw at the position at first but made up a lot of ground by the season's end.
Last spring's position battle between Golightly and Diggs went down to the wire last season, and Diggs still earned a decent amount of playing time.
Diggs is the more athletic player of the two. He's a little taller and bigger bodied, which South Carolina needs at times.
Diggs provides a potentially more reliable and bigger built player down the road.
I don't think Golightly will lose his starting spot necessarily. That is close to impossible to do to a fifth-year senior who, despite some of my criticism, landed himself on an All-SEC second team. But, Diggs' athleticism is hard to ignore, and he will surprise some people this spring with his bigger frame and the opportunity to step in more, since Golightly is still recovering from injury and will be limited this spring.
Abu Lamin doesn't have the time to develop like other members of this year's incoming recruiting class. Lamin comes in as a JUCO player, so the time for him to improve and surprise the coaching staff is now. He doesn't really have another option.
The Gamecocks are trying to replace some slots on the defensive line, and Lamin is ready for the opportunity.
He's a big-bodied player who is very physically imposing, which is what South Carolina needs from the interior push of the line. With smaller and faster defensive ends, the Gamecocks need a defensive tackle to really emerge as the enforcer inside.
If Lamin doesn't surprise the staff this spring, South Carolina could struggle at the position with somewhat average play, at best, from the other interior linemen.
Lamin has the tools, has been on campus and is motivated to be a starter this fall. Many expect him to assume that role, but it takes time, and he is going to have to surprise some people first.
Lamin's talent is hard to ignore, so he will get the job done this spring.
Pharoh Cooper did not have a lot of production last season, but now he has a year of experience and a starting spot at wide receiver entering the spring.
So, if Cooper has a starting nod, then how can he surprise people this spring?
The answer is simple. Have you seen what this kid is capable of?
Cooper is the definition of an offensive weapon. He can line up outside, inside and in the backfield—and don't forget about his return game.
With speed and explosiveness, Cooper is a true offensive threat to go the distance any time the ball gets into his hands.
Throw in that head ball coach Steve Spurrier loves the kid's style of play, and it's a recipe for success for Cooper.
He's expected to emerge as a home-run threat player. But, Cooper will do more than that. He can become a consistent, viable offensive option, not just a big-play player who scores a long touchdown once or twice a season. He's too deadly of a player not to.
Cooper will turn some heads this spring as a consistent receiver and solidify his spot as a starter, even considering the depth at wide receiver.
South Carolina's Cedrick Cooper is making moves on the defense after switching from linebacker to defensive end. But, he still needs to put on some weight.
With Darius English trying to put on some weight to not get bullied around by offensive tackles on the edge, why would South Carolina subject Cooper, who is even smaller, to play defensive end? Mason Harris is also not big and a converted linebacker, so what's the deal?
The deal is that Cooper's athletic abilities are hard to ignore.
Linebacker may have been one of the weaker positions for South Carolina entering the 2013 season, but the tables have turned, as linebacker is now one of the deeper positions on the 2014 roster. Cooper's shift to defensive end makes sense on paper.
Cooper provides a speed rush and he has a very good motor. If the interior linemen can draw extra blockers by being physically imposing, Cooper's size becomes less of an issue because he can slip past offensive tackles with the speed rush swim moves under the shoulder.
Cooper has experience on defense and his pass-rushing abilities come without questions, but can he show that his speed on the edge is more valuable than strength? I think the answer is yes and that we will see a big spring out of a motivated Cooper.
Sure, he has some injury concerns and might get bullied around at first, but that will pass over quickly.
Cooper will surprise some people this spring.