There have been few bright spots for South Carolina football this season as the Gamecocks are 1-3 and dropped their first 2 SEC games the past 2 weeks.

Many believe this week against Kentucky is a referendum on the Will Muschamp era, however, that’s an increasingly popular point of view most weeks. The Wildcats have won 5 consecutive in the series, but now both teams are faced with starting their backup quarterback. UK might have to go to another QB following another injury last week.

Despite the poor start, South Carolina continues to have solid performances around the field.

Here are the 10 best players through the first month of the season:

10. Joseph Charlton

Key stat: 48.9 average yards per punt

Comment: South Carolina’s special teams were expected to be a weapon, and Charlton is delivering. He leads the SEC in punting and is building on already high marks in his career, which include the school record for career punting average at 44.1 yards per punt and last year the single-season punting average mark with a 44.8-yard average.

9. Kyle Markway

Key stat: 14 catches

Comment: The tight end position has been a struggle since Hayden Hurst left, but Markway has given a reason for optimism with 14 catches for 172 yards with 2 touchdowns. Five catches for 46 yards and a touchdown against Alabama is the kind of game that Gamecocks faithful would take against any opponent.

8. Jaycee Horn

Key stat: 2 forced fumbles

Comment: The talkative cornerback stood toe-to-toe with Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and largely held his own. Sure, he’s given up some catches this season, but Horn has 2 forced fumbles, 4 pass breakups, which is fifth in the SEC. He has been the bright spot on a pass defense that has given up 10 touchdowns. He also has a sack.

7. Dakereon Joyner

Key stat: 138 total yards

Comment: Once a 3rd-string quarterback, Joyner has turned into a Swiss Army knife type player for the Gamecocks as he’s turned in rushing and passing yards for 138 total yards, and he’s also lined up at receiver. He’s also well-known as a good teammate and someone who could help keep the locker room together if losses continue to mount.

6. Ryan Hilinski

Key stat: 257.3 passing yards per game

Comment: The possible elbow injury is a concern, but Hilinski has exceeded expectations overall. The Missouri game was a disappointment, but the Bryan Edwards touchdown pass showed promise and the earlier games offered plenty of reason for optimism.

5. Rico Dowdle

Key stat: 6.54 yards per carry

Comment: Many believe the Tavien Feaster addition has pushed Dowdle to one of his best starts in his career. He leads the team in rushing with 268 yards and 3 touchdowns, and is finally becoming the feature back many expected the last couple of years.

4. Shi Smith

Key stat: 16 catches

Comment: A dependable receiver, Smith is a nice complement to Bryan Edwards, as he’s 2nd on the team in catches and yards. He’s also 5th in the SEC in kickoff returns as he’s averaged 23 yards per return.

3. Bryan Edwards

Key stat: 311 receiving yards

Comment: He’s 8th in the SEC in receiving, and considering the cast of characters at Alabama, LSU’s hot start in the passing game and the Gamecocks changing QBs, that’s impressive. He keeps moving up the record books among the great receivers in program history, which is a rich list in itself.

2. Ernest Jones

Key stat: 31 tackles

Comment: Jones has been a pleasant surprise after he assumed a starting role at linebacker, and is tied for 4th in the SEC in tackles. He burst on the scene in the spring, and has lived up to the expectations.

1. Javon Kinlaw

Key stat: 4 sacks

Comment: Kinlaw leads the SEC in sacks as he’s had 1 in every game this season. He also has 2 QB hurries, and had a blocked kick against North Carolina. After a recent history filled with injuries, Kinlaw is delivering at a position the team needed this season.