South Carolina football: 3 questions at the tight end position

The South Carolina football season is getting closer, and there are questions and battles at each position ahead of the season’s start. Here, we focus on the tight end position.

The Gamecocks’ football opener is set for September 5th, though that is certainly subject to change as universities and conferences adjust to the Coronavirus pandemic. With that being said, there is hope that the season will take place in the fall.

As there is uncertainty with college football’s future, there’s also uncertainty among the Gamecocks’ offensive and defensive units. Assuming that the hope of a fall start comes to fruition, South Carolina will have just a bit longer to answer unknown questions, sort through position battles, and get prepared for game one.

Let’s take a look at three questions facing the tight end room.

 

1. CAN NICK MUSE RETURN TO FULL HEALTH?

Muse got his first action in the SEC last season, joining the Gamecock squad in the second week of the year. He caught 17 passes for a total of 158 yards before his season was derailed with an ACL tear in early November.

Over his seven appearances, Muse showed great athleticism and the potential to be an all-conference performer. He was recently selected to the John Mackey award preseason watchlist, given annually to the nation’s top tight end.

The only question surrounding Muse’s 2020 season regards his health, not his abilities. Can the versatile tight end fully recover from his season-ending knee injury? If so, the sky is the limit.

2. WILL ANY FRESHMAN CONTRIBUTE?

Muse will get the first look at the position, but he’ll also need some help. There are a number of freshman tight ends on the 2020 Gamecock roster, though some have been on campus longer than others.

First, let’s go through the three redshirt freshmen. After spending their first seasons on the sideline, Traevon Kenion, Keveon Mullins, and Keshawn Toney will all look to make an impact in 2020. Of the group, only Toney recorded a catch, though Kenion saw some limited action in games against Charleston Southern, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, and Clemson.

All three were highly sought-after prospects, and they’ll get the first crack at making freshman contributions.

The Gamecocks also brought in four-star talent Eric Shaw and three-star athlete Jaheim Bell in the latest recruiting class. Both players project to begin their careers on offense, though Shaw has a chance to make an impact as a pass rusher should he choose to go that route.

They’ll get to showcase their abilities as the offseason begins. Can they leapfrog some of their older counterparts for early playing time?

3. WHAT WILL FB/TE ADAM PRENTICE’S ROLE BE?

Prentice followed coordinator Mike Bobo from Colorado State, enrolling at South Carolina as a graduate transfer. He’ll have one final season to play. What will his role be?

With the Rams, he played at both fullback and h-back, and it’s expected that he’ll do the same with the Gamecocks. Over his three seasons in Fort Collins, Prentice received 18 carries, which he turned into 65 yards. He’s also caught 18 passes for 115 yards and a score.

He’ll certainly be called on to provide a lead block for Gamecock running backs, but could also become a nice safety outlet for quarterback Ryan Hilinski. South Carolina fans hope he can have a similar impact to that of former fullback Pat Dimarco, who’s now playing with the Buffalo Bills.

It should be fun to see how coach Bobo utilizes Prentice’s skillset in what will be his last collegiate season.