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Spring Practice Review: Week 1

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Recapping the first week of action.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Three spring practices have concluded, leaving 11 practices to go before the spring game. Hype surrounding the new transfers and returners seems to be well deserved. The first few practices have been helmet only. When the pads come on and full contact begins, a clearer picture will present itself of where this team stands.

Quarterback - Spencer Rattler is the real deal. He’s mobile and can sling the ball. When Rattler throws it, the ball has a way of jumping out of his hand and gets to the target in a hurry. He’s running with the first team and has impressed all observers.

Running Back - Juju McDowell is creating all kinds of buzz. He’s quicker and more explosive than last year and although he may not be an every down back, he’s going to be utilized in a variety of ways. MarShawn Lloyd is looking more like the five star running back fans expected. He’s running with the first team and is cutting crisply and getting up to full speed quickly.

Wide Receiver - Josh Vann continues to impress and is the top option. Antwane Wells looks like the real deal and will add another explosive playmaker to the offense. Xavier Leggette physically looks the part of an SEC wide receiver and may be ready to take the next step in 2022. E.J. Jenkins is still with the WR group; he seems confident, smooth, and will push for more playing time.

Tight End - Austin Stogner isn’t participating in spring practice and will arrive later in the year. The staff is now referring to Jaheim Bell’s position as “Wide Back” as they expect to align him at multiple positions - with some on staff comparing him to former Gamecock and current NFL Pro Bowler Deebo Samuel. Bell sustained a minor injury in the first practice and will be limited through the rest of spring. Trae Kenion is the only other scholarship TE on the roster and will receive a high amount of reps this spring.

Offensive Line - The OL is returning the same starting five that finished 2021. Jakai Moore and Dylan Wonnum are currently working as backup offensive tackles, but don’t be surprised to see them in starting roles before the season begins.

Edge - As expected, Jordan Burch and Jordan Strachan are starters at the edge positions. Gilber Edmond now physically looks the part of an SEC defensive lineman and is a backup at one edge spot. Tyreek Johnson is the other backup. Terrell Dawkins has some size and ability and will likely move up the depth chart before spring concludes.

Defensive Tackle - MJ Webb is currently filling the spot vacated by Jabari Ellis. Tonka Hemingway and Alex Huntley are pushing him. It will be a battle that’ll continue through spring practice and into the fall. TJ Sanders has been praised by the staff as a young guy with size, strength, and high upside.

Linebacker - Debo Williams and Mo Kaba are the top backups and have been getting first team reps when Brad Johnson is held out. The more reps Williams and Kaba receive, the harder it’ll be to keep them off the field in 2022. Both players are explosive and exhibit a high level of physicality.

Cornerback - Cam Smith has lined up at Nickel, which fits him perfectly. This position requires physicality, the willingness to come up and hit in the run game, and the ability to cover multiple positions on offense. Marcellus Dial and Darius Rush are the first team corners when Smith is at Nickel. Dial has also lined up at Nickel spot when Smith is on the outside. Former JUCO Isaiah Norris is currently the top backup.

Safety - R.J. Roderick is a starter at safety, but may also play some Nickel if the other safeties come on strongly. DeVonni Reed and Tyrese Ross have seen first team action. Early enrollees Peyton Williams and Anthony Rose are working with the backups. They will be ones to watch as they have the potential to move up the depth chart as they get more acclimated to college football.

Special Teams - South Carolina will have multiple players with explosive ability on the return teams this year. Transfers Lovasea Carroll and Antwane Wells - as well as sophomore Juju McDowell - are currently atop the depth chart.