South Carolina’s Top Five Candidates for a Breakout Season in 2017

1. Ty’Son Williams, RB

The North Carolina transfer waited his turn, now he may well find himself in a starting role. After sitting out a walk-on season, he showed the ability to bounce outside and use his speed in the spring game, posting 83 yards and a score. The former four-star runner stands at 6-foot-1, 209 pounds. While Rico Dowdle played like a top option last season, Williams could sop up the carries around him.

2. D.J. Wonnum, DE

The underrated recruit who caught coach Will Muschamp’s eye barely a week into practice went from three stars to the No. 2 spot at the Buck position in less than two months last year. Now the 250-pound defender is a projected starter and the team’s best hope for a pure pass rusher.

3. T.J. Brunson, LB

A team needs more than two linebackers, and Brunson is No. 3. The Richland Northeast High School product got a little work at the back of the rotation last season as a true freshman. With T.J. Holloman, Larenz Bryant and Jonathan Walton gone, there should be plenty of open snaps. Almost no experienced bodies are coming, and considering USC’s No. 3 linebacker had 68 tackles in 2016, Brunson should be in good shape to contribute.

4. Malik Young, OT

This could be a stand-in if Sadarius Hutcherson completes his leap and secures the starting left tackle spot. Right now, that belongs to Young, a returning starter thrown into the fire in 2016 as a redshirt freshman. Both Young and Hutcherson show what the staff wants to put in the vital spot: highly athletic and quick, on the raw side with room to grow.

5. Deebo Samuel, WR

It would be fair to say Samuel broke out last year, when he ranked eighth in the SEC in yards and catches. But that came in a season where he missed or was hurt for almost four full games. If he’s healthy all year, and Jake Bentley continues his growth, Samuel could find himself among the most productive pass catchers in the league, perhaps country.

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Gamecocks DE D.J. Wonnum ready for No. 1 spot

South Carolina Gamecocks football DE D.J. Wonnum ready to step into a starting spot on the depth chart as a sophomore.

bbreiner@thestate.com

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