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South Carolina Gamecocks positional preview: tight ends

Every new quarterback needs his go-to guy. Could one of South Carolina's tight ends be young starter Connor Mitch's safety valve in Year 1?

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Who's gone?

Rory Anderson, Drew Owens, Nick McGriff

Who's back?

Jerell Adams, Kevin (KC) Crosby, Jacob August, Clayton Stadnik

Who's new?

Hayden Hurst, Connor Redmond, Kyle Markway

Key stat: South Carolina hasn't had a TE catch 25 (or more) passes in a season since Weslye Saunders had 32 catches in 2009. With the way the fans have promoted USC tight ends in recent years, it's hard to believe one of them couldn't average two receptions per game in a season.

The scoop: Jerell Adams is finally the guy atop the TE board in Columbia and he'll be counted on to be a significant option for Connor Mitch. In essence, Adams will play - the question is who complements him. Who is the Busta Anderson to his Justice Cunningham, the same second-fiddle role Adams spent the last two seasons in? Redshirt freshman Kevin Crosby seems to be the guy. At 6-foot-1, he's the shortest of USC's six tight ends but may be the most versatile. Crosby can play along the line, split out wide, or in the backfield as an H-back. Moving around like that comes with a steep learning curve, but Crosby feels like he has a hold on the offense and has improved as a blocker. Crosby may have played more last season if he hadn't suffered a broken foot that caused his redshirt status.

Jacob August was a player that emerged during spring practice. Also a redshirt freshman, the Columbia-raised pass catcher is a solid 6-foot-6. His ability to catch the ball regardless of circumstances impressed the coaching staff during spring ball.

Clayton Stadnik made the move to tight end this spring and I imagine he'll play the role of Cody Gibson last season - an extra blocker along the line for when Spurrier begins the call for power.

G.A. Mangus, who also serves as the tight ends coach, enjoys dressing and preparing three tight ends during the season. Adams and Crosby are guaranteed reps. Do they view Stadnik as the starter at some mutant position, thus justifying the act of getting August into the action? I hope so. In Adams, Crosby, and August, USC has its safety valve deep and solidified for Connor Mitch.

Predicted depth chart

Jerell Adams-K.C. Crosby-Jacob August