Academics haunt several incoming South Carolina freshmen
Depleted of experience following the exit of starting cornerback tandem Jimmy Legree and Victor Hampton, South Carolina knew it would have depth concerns in the secondary this fall.
Worry has been turned up a notch following recent news of academic issues with several incoming players projected to fill those needs. The harsh reality of being ultra-thin in a key area was magnified Wednesday after recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. revealed more than a third of the Gamecocks’ 2014 signing class might not be eligible this season.
In an interview with The State’s Josh Kendall, Spurrier Jr. said the Gamecocks are expecting a few more academic casualties in addition to defensive ends Dante Sawyer and Kalan Ritchie who have already announced they will attend junior college before South Carolina opens practice Aug. 1.
Thirteen players in the program’s 21-member signing class have already enrolled in school, but eight in limbo — including four-star cornerbacks Chris Lammons and Wesley Green — are under pressure to qualify and the clock’s ticking.
“We would like to hope that at least two out of three (cornerbacks) are going to make it,” Spurrier Jr. told The State. “That’s a pretty critical area for our 2014 football season getting those guys here.”
The first blow to Lorenzo Ward’s pass defense came in December when Hampton announced a decision to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. A week later, things got worse when Hampton’s expected replacement, sophomore Ahmad Christian, said he was transferring to be closer to home.
The Jacksonville, Fla. native who was South Carolina’s third-leading tackler among corners instead landed at Utah. His abrupt exit meant the only 2014 player returning with reps at the position would be redshirt sophomore Rico McWilliams.
Unless secondary coach Grady Brown moves senior safety Brison Williams to corner, one of the two openings on the outside will go to McWilliams almost by default in prep for the opener against pass-happy Texas A&M.
Redshirt freshman Ali Groves along with summer enrollees Al Harris Jr. and D.J. Smith will battle for the other corner spot. Sidney Rhodes, a former walk-on now on scholarship, should also challenge for early playing time.