The Gamecocks' depth chart for the UNC game features some mild surprises

Al Messerschmidt

South Carolina enters the season opener against the Tar Heels with serious questions about who will be catching the football.

Earlier this week, South Carolina released it's first official depth chart of the 2013 season. Click here to watch Steve Spurrier's Sunday press conference, in which he fields questions about, among other things, some of the more surprising elements of this two-deep.

Offensive Depth Chart

Position First Team Second Team Third Team
X Wide Receiver Shaq Roland Shamier Jeffery K.J. Brent
Z Wide Receiver Damiere Byrd Bruce Ellington Jody Fuller
B Wide Receiver Nick Jones Pharoh Cooper Kwinton Smith
Left Tackle Corey Robinson Mason Zandi
Left Guard A.J. Cann Brock Stadnik Bryce King
Center Cody Waldrop Clayton Stadnik Alan Knott
Right Guard Ronald Patrick Will Sport D.J. Park
Right Tackle Brandon Shell J.P. Vonashek Na'Ty Rodgers
Tight End Jerrell Adams Drew Owens
Quarterback Connor Shaw Dylan Thompson Brendan Nosovitch
Fullback Connor McLaurin Jordan Diaz
Tailback Mike Davis Brandon WIlds Shon Carson

Who is going to catch the football?

With Bruce Ellington (hamstring) listed as a backup and Busta Anderson (hamstring) not even listed on the two-deep, South Carolina's starters will have contributed to just 17% of last year's total catches. If Ellington's hamstring isn't ready to go by 6 PM tomorrow night, Damiere Byrd's 14 catches in 2012 will be the most of any Gamecock receiver on the field. USC has a proven backup at tight end in Jerrell Adams, who probably even has a higher ultimate ceiling than Anderson, but Bruce Ellington's presence in this WR corps is vital. The Gamecocks can still win even if Bruce isn't available, but it will put that much more pressure on a young group that is long on upside but short on results.

Oh hi there, Pharoh Cooper

When Pharoh Cooper was being recruited as a multi-position prospect out of Havelock, NC, the buzz was that he'd have a chance to come in early and make an impact as a punt returner, but I don't think anyone thought that Pharoh would be entering the North Carolina game just one play away from lining up as the starting slot receiver for the Gamecocks, especially after he opened fall camp working with the safeties. But apparently Steve Spurrier so much liked what he saw out of Pharoh's reps in the punt return game that he petitioned for Cooper's transition to the offensive side of the ball. What the Head Ball Coach wants, the Head Ball Coach gets, and Cooper says that he'd rather be playing receiver anyway.

Hey, what's with all of the true freshman offensive linemen?

If you press people like Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban about who's listed second on a depth chart, it becomes clear pretty quickly that depth charts are a media-driven construct that coaches would just as soon not deal with whatsoever. But it's hard not to notice that Bryce King, D.J. Park, Alan Knott, and J.P. Vonashek - all true freshmen - are listed as backups on the pre-UNC edition of the depth chart. The ability to redshirt true freshman offensive linemen is instrumental for cultivating quality, SEC-caliber depth, so seeing four true freshmen listed on the two deep is bound to raise some eyebrows.

Naturally, the plan is for the starting five to go the distance, but, once the game starts, injury and/or poor performance could force Shawn Elliott's hand to burn a redshirt or two. But, considering that the offensive line is perhaps this team's most veteran unit, this shouldn't be too much of a concern.

Defensive Depth Chart

Position First Team Second Team Third Team
Weakside Defensive End Chaz Sutton Mason Harris Gerald Dixon
Defensive Tackle J.T. Surratt Gerald Dixon, Jr. Deon Green
Defensive Tackle Kelcy Quarles Phillip Dukes
Strongside Defensive End Jadeveon Clowney Darius English
Middle Linebacker Kaiwan Lewis T.J. Holloman Jonathan Walton
Weakside Linebacker Marcquis Roberts Skai Moore Larenz Bryant
SPUR Sharrod Golightly Jordan Diggs Chris Moody
Field Cornerback Victor Hampton Ahmad Christian
Boundary Safety Kadetrix Marcus T.J. Gurley
Free Safety Brison Williams Chaz Elder
Boundary Cornerback Jimmy Legree Jamari Smith Rico McWilliams

Young linebackers are still young

The only real surprise in the linebacking corps is that once-projected WLB starter Cedrick Cooper is not even listed as a reserve. Cooper's hyperextended elbow has kept him out much longer than the 10 days to 2 weeks that he was initially expected to miss. Among the true freshmen in the mix, Skai Moore stands the best chance to see the field in 2013. Linebackers coach Kirk Botkin has praised Moore throughout fall camp for his ability to pick up the complexities of the Gamecocks' defense at a much faster rate than most true freshmen.

Wait, I thought Jamari Smith was a running back

Not unlike Pharoh Cooper, Jamari Smith switched positions in the middle of fall camp, and it comes as something of a surprise to see him passing over Rico McWilliams as the backup to Jimmy Legree.

Special Teams Depht Chart

Position First Team Second Team
Kickoff Specialist Landon Ard OR Elliott Fry
Placekicker Elliott Fry OR Landon Ard
Punter Tyler Hull Patrick Fish
Kickoff Returner Victor Hampton Bruce Ellington
Punt Returner Victor Hampton Shon Carson
Longsnapper Ryland Culbertson Drew Williams
Holder Patrick Fish Brendan Nosovitch

A true freshman, walk-on kicker, huh?

Steve Spurrier is known for many things. One of those things is his aversion to kicking field goals, which should only be intensified by the fact that he will have true freshman Elliott Fry attempting field goals and PATs on Thursday night. Fry's emergence comes as a surprise to most of us at Garnet And Black Attack, as evidenced by how heavily we threw our editorial weight behind Landon Ard. Despite Spurrier's apparent confidence in the youngster Fry, Gamecock fans figure to be more nervous than usual should the season opener end up being decided by a last-minute field goal.

What happend to Coleman Harley?

Well, I guess we're 0/2 when it comes to taking chances on kicking game specialists.

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