3 Breakout Candidates for South Carolina Football:
Defensive Back Vicari Swain
With Marcellas Dial moving on to the NFL this offseason, the cornerback position is as open as it has been in years in Columbia. O'Donnell Fortune was a starter for most of the year in 2023, but he had a couple of minor suspensions and struggled at times when he was on the field. The Gamecocks also played safeties at the nickel corner all season, and DQ Smith and Nick Emmanwori struggled at the spot before Jalon Kilgore played decently well there (though, he is still a natural safety).
The 2024 secondary will have to look very different without Dial and (hopefully) some tweaks to the nickel spot. Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray played Judge Collier when Fortune missed time last year, but it could be another young corner who steps up in a big way for the Gamecocks next fall.
Vicari Swain came to the South Carolina football program as a 4-star athlete who was dominant as a high school wide receiver. However, he has incredible upside as a DB as he possesses elite movement ability (agility, fluidity, hip turning, etc.) and is very explosive (speed, acceleration, leaping ability).
After not enrolling until the summer, Swain didn't play much in 2023 (credited with just 3 games played), but almost weekly, reports came out of practice that described his development. Words like "different," "special," and "wow" were often used to explain the things the Georgia native was doing in the defensive backfield in the Jerri and Steve Spurrier Indoor Practice Facility.
South Carolina has openings at one (maybe two) corner spots and the nickel position heading into this spring, and Swain will get a chance to compete for those jobs. With a year of college experience under his belt, now could be his time.
Even if Vicari Swain does not win a starting gig on the Carolina defense in 2024, he should get a chance to impact special teams. He was a dynamic returner in high school, and his speed and tackling ability make him an ideal gunner on Pete Lembo's coverage units. Kick returner and gunner Xavier Legette is off to the NFL, and punt returner Ahmarean Brown has graduated, meaning that the Gamecocks need someone or multiple someones to step up on the "third phase" of the game.
You can watch some of his high school senior season highlights here.