South Carolina football: Re-evaluating the secondary after Prunty transfer

South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Jaylin Dickerson (4) celebrates an interception. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Jaylin Dickerson (4) celebrates an interception. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /
south carolina football
South Carolina Gamecocks defensive back Cam Smith (left) intercepts a pass. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /

The South Carolina football team took a major hit on defense this week with the announced transfer of Karon Prunty. The former freshman All-American was only on campus for a month, stepping away from the program for personal reasons. Prunty was projected to take first-team reps at cornerback and was penciled in as a starter alongside Cam Smith in the South Carolina secondary.

Now, the Gamecocks have to find a replacement on the outside. The roster was very thin entering the offseason, but the coaching staff was able to add some key pieces over the Summer. Incoming tranfers Davis Spaulding, Marcellas Dial, Isaiah Norris, and Carlins Platel will all have an opportunity to earn starting roles. There are also a number of rising underclassmen looking to make their first real contributions on the field. Who will step up?

Let’s look at each cornerback on the roster, and take a stab at who will wind up filtering into the starting rotation when the season opener rolls around.

The top group

The top options in the South Carolina secondary are Cam Smith, Marcellas Dial, Carlins Platel, David Spaulding, and Joey Hunter. Smith will be a day one starter if healthy. He’s got the most SEC experience on the roster, and tied for the team lead with two interceptions last season. Behind him, things are murky.

Dial looks like a top candidate to take Prunty’s spot at corner after a stint with Georgia Military Junior College. He was rated as the nation’s seventh-best JUCO cornerback and was able to get to campus in time for Spring practice.

Another transfer, Platel, looks like he’ll be factoring in more at the nickel position when the Gamecocks use five defensive backs. The ballhawking defender picked off seven passes in three seasons with Assumption University and has the ability to become a game-changer for the South Carolina secondary.

Spaulding has been on campus since January after spending his freshman season at Georgia Southern. He picked off one pass, which he returned for a score last year  against Appalachian State. Hunter is entering year two with the Gamecocks and has received some offseason praise from his new staff. He could factor in at nickel or on the outside.

The reserves

Providing depth will be underclassmen O’Donnell Fortune, Dom Hill, and La’Dareyen Craig, as well as transfer Isaiah Norris. Norris may have the quickest path to a starting role, as the JUCO performer was rated as the eighth-best cornerback prior to committing to the Gamecocks. The Palmetto State native just arrived to campus, though, and it will likely take some time for him to pick up the new scheme.

Forture and Hill were both members of the 2020 recruiting class, and they both saw the field sparingly last season. Each has flip-flopped between safety and cornerback, so it remains to be seen where they’ll land when the season begins. Craig is just a freshman and it will likely take him some time to crack into the rotation.

The safeties

The loss of Prunty shouldn’t affect the safety position much, where Tyrese Ross, Jaylin Dickerson, Jaylan Foster, RJ Roderick, and Jahmar Brown will battle for starting roles. Dickerson, Roderick, and Foster all played a good deal last season, while Brown is making the switch from linebacker to safety under the new staff.

Tyrese Ross transferred from Washington State and will push for playing time. He’ll have a chance to crack the starting lineup at some point, but may be a bit behind some players that were already on the roster.

Projecting the starting rotation

For now, we’re predicting a starting five of Cam Smith, Marcellas Dial, Carlins Platel, Jaylin Dickerson, and RJ Roderick.

Expect the secondary rotation to be very fluid until the coaching staff can identify the players best suited for the scheme.

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