This year’s South Carolina senior class will leave as the winningest group in Gamecock history and will also share the distinction of having never lost to arch-rival Clemson. Perhaps nobody embodied the qualities that led to the success more than safety D.J. Swearinger, but he certainly wasn’t alone in taking the program to new heights.
DeVonte Holloman is one of the most versatile players in South Carolina history.
DeVonte Holloman was the highest rated recruit of the seniors to stay in Columbia all four years and has proven to be one of the most versatile players you’ll find in college football. He saw time at both safety positions, spur and even at linebacker over the course of his career. Playing safety effectively at over 240 pounds is not something you see every day in college football, but Holloman pulled it off. He was also an excellent leader during his career and helped lead this program to unprecedented success over a four-year period.
Defensive end Devin Taylor came to South Carolina as a tall and extremely lanky player, but manage to add weight with each passing season. He will leave the program as a 6-foot-8, 270 pounder who made a number of big plays over the course of his career. His best football is still ahead of him at the NFL level, and he has a chance to make some team very happy long term if he’s willing to put in the work to maximize his abilities.
Tight end Justice Cunningham was one of the lowest rated players the Gamecocks signed in the class of 2009, but that didn’t stop him from becoming a four-year contributor and three-year starter. Outside of Swearinger, I’m not sure any senior worked harder to get the most of his abilities and he’s been one of the more under appreciated players I can remember at Carolina. He’s probably been the best overall blocker on the team the last few years and became a legitimate threat in the passing game as a senior. He now has a chance to be drafted in the 2013 NFL draft, something few could foresee four years ago.
Linebacker Shaq Wilson overcame a serious hamstring injury in the middle of his career and will leave as one of the smartest and most productive linebackers to play in Carolina recently. Fellow linebacker Reginald Bowens also overcame a host of injuries early in his career, but he played a big role in the defense’s success during his final two seasons as a Gamecock.
Damario Jeffery was forced to spend too much time at the spur position despite having outgrown it, but he found a home at middle linebacker as a senior and made the most of his snaps. Fellow backup linebacker Quin Smith was one of the most productive defensive players on a per snap basis during his career and is another I think is under appreciated.
Center T.J. Johnson was a four-year starter on the offensive line and will leave Carolina as the all-time leader in career starts at 53 games. Defensive tackle Byron Jerideau arrived at Carolina three years ago as an unknown junior college prospect that the staff took a flyer on late in the class. He was a role player his first two years but worked his way into a starting role as a senior and will finish his career on a high note.
Cornerback Akeem Auguste may have battled through more injuries than any other Gamecock player, but he, too, will finish his career on the positive side of things. Auguste played an important role down the stretch of the 2012 season, particularly against the passing attacks of Clemson and Arkansas, and will be asked to do the same against Michigan in the Outback Bowl.
Running back Kenny Miles spent most of his career as a backup running back, but he was always ready when called upon and always knew his role. He is one of the highest character players ever at South Carolina and made the most his career as a player few major schools recruited.
Defensive lineman Aldrick Fordham is a player the coaching staff would love to have back for one more year, as his true freshman season was essentially a waste. However, Fordham was one of the most fundamentally sound linemen on the team during his career and was effective both as an end and a tackle and helped provide quality depth for three years.
Qua Gilchrist made the transition from linebacker to fullback as a senior and found a way to contribute as a senior. Even a guy like kicker Adam Yates, who went from an overweight and ineffective kickoff specialist to a dependable kicker and much improved kickoff guy in a span of three years.
Overall, this group should be remembered as one who helped lead a major turnaround of the South Carolina program. The Gamecocks have hit double-digit wins three years in a row, and with a win over Michigan in the Outback Bowl, the program will have won 11 games two years in a row for the first time in school history and 31 games the last three seasons combined.
Exclusive content on TheBigSpur.com
Outback Bowl practice scoop - December 27 - South Carolina took the field for the first time and it was first reported by TheBigSpur.com that one player expected to make the trip wasn’t there. Find out who in this exclusive report.
Changes in store at linebacker - With only two scholarship linebackers slated to be on the team this spring practice, linebackers coach Kirk Botkin grants TheBigSpur.com an exclusive interview to discuss which players could see time at the position this spring practice.
Outback Bowl practice scoop - December 28 - Read some interesting notes on athletics director Ray Tanner, freshman quarterback Brendan Nosovitch, and running back Shon Carson in this report exclusive for members of TheBigSpur.com.
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Outback Bowl practice scoop - December 29 - South Carolina had a four-star committed prospect visit practice on a rainy Saturday afternoon at Jefferson High School. While practices have been loose and relaxed, there’s one position that has approached the buildup to Michigan in an intense manner. Find out who visited, which position, and much more in this exclusive report.
Outback Bowl practice scoop - December 30 - One of the big questions amongst South Carolina fans is whether or not Marcus Lattimore will be here for the Outback Bowl. Well, we have the answer. Read about Lattimore, a four-star uncommitted prospect who visited for practice, and changes to special teams in this exclusive report from John Whittle and Wes Mitchell.
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