Gamecocksonline.com will take a position-by-position look at the South Carolina football roster leading up to the September 1 season opener at Vanderbilt. Today we will focus on the linebackers.
Lettermen Returning: Bryson Allen-Williams, Larenz Bryant, Jalen Dread, T.J. Holloman, Chris Moody, Skai Moore, Jonathan Walton.
Squadmen Returning: Sherrod Pittman, Tyler Ragsdale.
Roster Newcomers: Hassan Belton, T.J. Brunson, Spencer Eason-Riddle, Trey Mitchell, Brett Shore.
The Gamecocks will be without all-conference performer Skai Moore, the team’s leading tackler in each of the past three seasons, who will sit out the season after undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk. Despite that setback, the linebacking corps should be an area of strength on this year’s squad, as Coleman Hutzler has the depth to fill the gap created in Moore’s absence.
Leading the way are seasoned veterans T.J. Holloman, Bryson Allen-Williams and Jonathan Walton. Holloman, a 6-2, 230-pound senior from Stone Mountain, Ga., served as a team captain last season and has logged 140 career tackles. One of the smartest players on the team, Holloman could play either the Mike or Will linebacker position. He earned a spot on the Butkus Award Watch List. Junior Bryson Allen-Williams, a six-foot, 230-pounder from Ellenwood, Ga., has had a very good camp and the coaches feel he can have a breakout season in 2016. Allen-Williams has also emerged as a team leader and could turn in an all-conference-type performance this season. He has lined up at several positions in head coach Will Muschamp’s defensive schemes. The hard-hitting Walton, a 6-0, 230-pound senior from Daphne, Ala., has recorded 103 tackles over the last two seasons and figures in primarily at the Mike position.
Chris Moody, a 6-1, 220-pound senior who has played in the secondary most of his career, could also find a home at one of the linebacker positions this fall.
One player who was expected to be a solid contributor this season, but is off to a rough start is 6-0, 225-pound senior Larenz Bryant. The athletic Charlotte, N.C. product suffered a hamstring injury early in camp and will be sidelined for several weeks. Jalen Dread, a 5-10, 220-pound sophomore from Foley, Ala., who played last season under the name Jalen Henry, is the only other returning letterwinner. He has logged most of his game experience on special teams.
Redshirt freshmen Sherrod Pittman, a six-foot, 225-pounder from Jacksonville, Fla., who sat out last season while rehabbing from a broken leg, and walk-on Tyler Ragsdale return as well.
Local product T.J. Brunson, from Columbia’s Richland Northeast High School, is the only scholarship true freshman linebacker to join the squad. The 6-1, 225-pound Brunson has been impressive since his arrival on campus and figures to work his way in the rotation this fall.
Spencer Eason-Riddle, Trey Mitchell and Brett Shore are walk-ons who will add depth. Hassan Belton, the brother of Gamecock wide receiver Matrick Belton, joined the squad in August after transferring from Western Carolina. He will not be eligible to play per NCAA transfer rules this fall.