Under The Radar South Carolina Gamecocks for 2015


It is so close now. August has ended, and we are now on the verge of the first game day of the season.  The talking season is finally over, and now fans all over the country get to see what their team is made of.  That sentiment is especially true here in Columbia after the disastrous start to last season and all the unknowns for this young team.

There are a few things we do know about the South Carolina Gamecocks; Pharoh Cooper is one of the best playmakers in the nation, and Elliot Fry will be solid and consistent in the kicking game. Outside of those two, not much is known about how this team will perform.

Sure, Brandon Shell is a 3 year starter, but he is shifting from right to left tackle.  Yes, Skai Moore has led the team in tackles two years in a row, but he has a new scheme to learn and let’s face it, the entire defense will be out to prove their worth all over again.

With so many unknowns, and so little hype leading into the season, there are bound to be some under the radar players who will make a big impact, and I have five in particular that I am expecting to do just that.

Bryson Allen-Williams – Sophomore – Linebacker

In terms of potential and talent, perhaps no one on this list has more than Bryson.  The former U.S. Army All-American is poised to breakout as a star in John Hoke’s defense this season. Last year, he struggled, as most of our defenders did, with tackling and positioning, but he showed flashes as the season came to a close.

Bryson not only dealt with adjusting to playing in the SEC out of high school, but he also was forced to switch positions and play as an undersized defensive end instead of his natural spot at LB.  In an article I posted last week, Gamecock Legend Eric Norwood even said he feels Bryson will have a breakout season, and I agree.

BAW saved his best performance for last a season ago, with multiple tackles in the bowl win over the Miami Hurricanes. Hopefully he can build on that performance, and the move back to linebacker will allow him to make even more plays in his second season in garnet and black.

Jordan Diggs – R-Junior – Safety

Jordan Diggs is one of the few veteran players on this South Carolina Gamecocks team. He is a fourth year guy from Fort Myers, Florida who has been moved from the Spur position back to Strong Safety.  He has played sporadically throughout his career, but has built a reputation as a player who hits hard and attacks the line of scrimmage.

Last year as a Spur Linebacker, he tied for the team lead with 2 sacks.  After new co-coordinator John Hoke implemented a new defensive scheme in the spring, Diggs was moved to the backline of the defense where he has cemented himself as a starter alongside Isaiah Johnson at the safety positions.  He also lost some weight to help gain quickness and speed so he can cover more ground in the secondary.

I have always liked when he was on the field, I believe he adds a toughness and aggression this D will certainly need if it is to recover from last season’s debacle.  I expect to see him light up more than a few receivers, much like Gamecock great D.J. Swearinger used to do, plus he will still attack the line of scrimmage in run support.

Rico McWilliams – R-Junior – Cornerback

With all the bad that went along with USC’s defense last year, there were a few bright spots as well.  The pass coverage by the young inexperienced corners steadily improved as the season wore on. Rico in particular really seemed to grow in his role as a starting corner after having shown flashes of potential but being injured throughout his first few years in the program.

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This year’s defense will hopefully have a much better presence in terms of hitting and affecting the QB, so that should ease some of the pressure on McWilliams and his fellow DBs.  I expect to see continued growth from our young corners, and I think with more experience and a renewed pass rush up front, the secondary will be in a lot better shape than most outsiders think.

Alan Knott – R-Sophomore – Center

Offensive linemen are, by definitions, under the radar players, so having one on this list was almost mandatory.  Last season, even with two returning centers with playing experience in front of him, Knott eventually took over the starting role in the middle of Shawn Elliot’s line.

Now, with All-SEC left guard A.J. Cann on to the NFL, Knott will have even more pressure on him.  Coach Spurrier’s offense relies heavily on timing between the QB and his receivers, so being the man who snaps the ball and gets each play started is of the upmost importance.

The 6’4” 270lb sophomore from Tyrone, GA had his ups and downs in the snapping department last year, but with a new QB and mostly new wide outs, his ability to snap the ball properly will be crucial to developing timing in this offense.  I haven’t heard nearly as much chatter from the coaches about bad snaps in this fall camp, so hopefully with a year of playing time under his belt, Knott has moved past the bad snaps and will be ready to anchor the interior of this offensive line.

Brandon Wilds – R-Senior – Tailback

While Brandon is certainly not a stranger to Gamecock fans, with all the super talented running backs in the SEC this year, I feel that nationally his importance is being overlooked.  He has been a productive runner and pass catcher for the last few seasons at Carolina, he even has multiple 100+ yard games to his credit.

Wilds has mainly been the second back behind Mike Davis that last two years, but that hasn’t stopped him from impacting games, including a big touchdown run against UGA and two TDs in last year’s shootout with Tennessee.  Reports from fall practice have said that Brandon is a step or so faster this year, he has even said his speed gets underestimated and that he runs a 4.4 in the 40 yard dash.

The senior tailback from Blythewood will team with Sophomore David Williams in the backfield and will be relied upon to move the offense with new QB Connor Mitch under center.  A productive ground game will also be needed to help open room for Pharoh Cooper, and keep teams from being able to focus solely on stopping him.  Wilds has proven to be a reliable pass catcher as well as a tough nosed runner and will look to add to his 1277 career yards and 13 total touchdowns.

Now is the time for this team of unknowns to finally get out on the field and show what they can do.  The UNC Tarheels will be the first to find out what that is in Charlotte on September 3. It will be a tough test, as most every game on our schedule is this year.  USC and Coach Spurrier will need these five players and more to step up and show that they are ready for the spotlight if the Gamecocks want to return back to being a contender in the SEC.

Next: Gamecocks Catch the Injury Bug