Every football team has an established star who the team relies on to make plays when it really matters. With Skai Moore, undoubtedly the Gamecocks' best player, down for the season, new faces will have to step up their play and lead the team to success. I've gone through the depth chart and picked five specific players who will be the ones to step up and take over in ways on and off the stat sheet. They might not be the biggest names now, but they will end up being key components and contributors to any success Will Muschamp has this season.
Samuel is the de-facto number one option in the passing game, despite having only 12 receptions his freshman year. He was highly recruited coming out of high school and has the athleticism to thrive in the SEC, and showed out in the season finale, with five receptions for 108 yards and a TD. Finishing strong is always a good thing to see going into a new season, and with a full season of college football under his belt, the mental aspect should be caught up with the physical side of the game. Whether it's Orth, McIlwain, Bentley, or Scarnecchia slinging the pigskin this season, look for Samuel to top 1,000 yards and catch 8+ touchdowns.
The massive left tackle out of Chapin, SC, Zandi earned a starting job last season and played relatively well. He will need to keep the pocket clean for whoever the quarterback is to give them time to make the best decision possible. If he struggles against some of the marquee pass rushers in the SEC, then it will be a long day for the South Carolina offense. He's going into his senior season, so this will be his last chance to show the talent he has for NFL Draft scouts. That alone is enough to motivate him to improve and help this offense out. Stats aren't really kept for offensive linemen, but four or less sacks given up will signify an impressive season for the big man.
The kid is versatile, I'll give him that. Listed as a starter at both safety and cornerback on the official depth chart, his versatility is what makes him dangerous. He will likely play a Tyrann Mathieu-like role in the secondary, as he possesses the quickness to matchup with receivers in the slot, the speed and technique to split out wide, and the tackling abilities to play safety. He was a four-star coming out of high school, and Coach Robinson, the DBs coach, will get every drop of talent out of him. I'd expect to see that versatility show up in the stat sheet.
This one is a stretch, as Walton could start over Bryant at the SLB spot. If Bryant earns the start, he will likely play a position similar to the Spur position in those famed Gamecock defenses of yore. He has elite athleticism, and has the size to take on tight ends in coverage. He was another four-star not fully developed by the old coaching staff, but with the coaches that Coach Muschamp brought in, his talent should finally show. He is too good of an athlete to keep on the bench, and with four years of SEC play under his belt, has the experience to step up and lead this team, both on the field and off. If he starts, which I believe he will, look for 90+ tackles, 3+ sacks, and 3+ interceptions. He is THAT dynamic.
The hyper-talented JUCO defensive-end didn't quite put all the pieces together last year in SEC play, finishing with a meager 4.5 sacks. In his senior season, it is vital for the pass rush to show the promise that it has, and take pressure off the secondary. If Lewis can live up to his talent, then I think he should approach double-digit sacks. This is attainable with the coaching that is in place, and with the other talent across the D-line. If he shows dominance early, then he could command double-teams. If this happens, he's making quite an impact off the stat sheet, opening up rushing lanes and one-on-one matchups for teammates, like Darius English. I expect the pass-rush to drastically improve from last year, and that starts with Lewis.