South Carolina football: final updates for season opener

Shi Smith #13 of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Shi Smith #13 of the South Carolina Gamecocks. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp has given his final updates for the season opener.

South Carolina is just 24 hours from its season opening matchup versus Tennessee. Most of the position battles have been settled, the depth chart has been released, and the coaches have turned their focus to the Volunteers.

With that said, there were still a few battles that were a bit uncertain. Those were running back, right tackle, punt returner, and kick returner. On Thursday, Will Muschamp updated the Carolina fanbase on his decisions at each spot while conducting his weekly “Carolina Calls” show.

Here’s who ended up winning the starting roles for Saturday’s opener.

Right Tackle

The right tackle spot has had the closest position battle of any other on the team. When the depth chart was released this week, there were three players listed as co-starters. Those were Jakai Moore, Vershon Lee, and Jaylen Nichols.

Moore and Nichols both earned playing time as true freshmen a season ago, while Lee is fresh out of high school. All three could get action on Saturday as coaches continue to evaluate who gives the team a best chance to win.

"“Jakai Moore, who started for us last year, Jaylen Nichols, who started for us last year, both as true freshmen, both guys are going to be really good football players, then Vershon Lee is a true freshman from Virginia,” Muschamp said. “He’s going to play some right tackle Saturday night. Those three guys are going to play in the game, in some form or fashion, to figure out who we can count on to be the solid starter at that position. Those guys give us some flexibility.”"

Running Back

With MarShawn Lloyd going down in August, opportunities at running back began to open up. There were two players returning from last season in Kevin Harris and Deshaun Fenwick. There are also two newcomers in Rashad Amos and ZaQuandre White.

On Thursday, Muschamp said that Harris will get the opening snap, with Fenwick and White also being a part of the rotation. Harris ran for 179 yards and four scores in his first year on campus.

White missed most of the preseason with an injury, but appears to be good-to-go for the opener. He’s coming off of a JUCO All-American year with Iowa Western where he ran for 876 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Fenwick will also get some touches after a 2019 campaign that saw him run for 111 yards. True freshman Rashad Amos was not mentioned, but he may also factor into the rotation.

Special teams

Coach Muschamp updated a few special teams positions, too, saying that sophomore safety Jammie Robinson will open as the team’s starting punt returner. Robinson was dynamic at the position in high school, but has yet to give it a shot at the collegiate level. Fellow defensive back Jaycee Horn will back him up.

On the kickoff team, it looks like last year’s starting returner Shi Smith will resume his role fielding kicks. He averaged 21.9 yards a return in 2019, good for second in the SEC. He fielded 12 kicks and recorded a long return of 60 yards.

Lining up next to Smith as the “off returner” will be Dakereon Joyner. The quarterback-turned-receiver is electric with the ball in his hands, and this may be one of the easiest ways for him to get touches as he continues to adjust to the intricacies of the wide receiver position.

The Gamecocks should now be set for the season opening matchup in Williams-Brice Stadium. South Carolina will take the field at 7:30 PM Saturday.

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