South Carolina Football: 5 Players Who Should See Their Roles Expanded in 2014

Lee Schechter@@leeschechterContributor IIIMarch 26, 2014

South Carolina Football: 5 Players Who Should See Their Roles Expanded in 2014

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    Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

    South Carolina is in the process of replacing some players who have departed, and this spring is about finding players who are ready to fill their shoes. The Gamecocks are not short of talent, so anyone can rise to the occasion and claim an expanded role in the 2014 season. 

    Head coach Steve Spurrier needs players at wide receiver and cornerback to develop in the offseason and assume big roles this fall. 

    While some upperclassmen and many younger players will see some expanded roles including Damiere Byrd, Chaz Elder, Kelsey Griffin and a healthy Brandon Wilds, others could see a more significant expansion in their roles.

    Positional need, talent and spring roster status are all factors that went into selecting these five players.

    Here are the five Gamecocks who should see their roles expanded in 2014.  

Kane Whitehurst

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    Kane Whitehurst quickly became a fan favorite with his two touchdowns on the season and superior work ethic. 

    Whitehurst, a walk-on who transferred from Arkansas, is essentially what every football fan loves to see: a hardworking, underdog-type player who knows how to elevate his play and outhustle everyone around him. 

    Currently, he is slated to be more of a depth receiver, as he has the utility skills needed to substitute for Shaq Roland. However, Whitehurst has the potential to expand his role even more. 

    Despite his short (5'11") stature, he has excellent hands and knows how to find the football. And he is finally healthy enough to contribute in every game. 

    He may not be a target on every down, but Whitehurst will see an increased role in 2014. He has earned it and can become a solid option in the passing game. 

Pharoh Cooper

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    Explosive—that's the one word to describe Pharoh Cooper. 

    Right now, he is listed as a starting wide receiver on South Carolina's spring depth chart. And I do not expect that to change. 

    Spurrier loves what Cooper brings to the team. He is a deadly receiver with his speed and can also carry the football in jet sweeps or work his way into screen plays. And he is a home run threat in special teams with his kick and punt returns. 

    Cooper is a true athlete who will do whatever the coaching staff tells him to do in order to win football games. Whether he takes a handoff out of the backfield, works out of the slot or returns kicks, he is the real deal and will become a focal point of the offense in 2014. He is far too talented not to be utilized on offense and special teams. 

    Cooper will not only see an increased role in 2014, but he could become an impact player. 

Na'Ty Rodgers

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    So there was that whole arrest incident that occurred on March 23, when Rodgers was charged with disorderly conduct. He was automatically suspended indefinitely by the team based on the program's rules. But let's look past this matter for now. He's back at practice.  

    Rodgers was a highly touted offensive lineman coming out of high school, and that has not changed. After sitting out a season due to being redshirted, he is ready to make an impact on the team—if he can stay on the field. 

    The incident is alarming, but he has been assuming first-team duties on the offensive line as he tries to muscle the starting right guard spot away from Cody Waldrop. 

    Rodgers has good footwork and a strong frame to become a solid addition to the right side of the line, where he will work next to a very skilled Brandon Shell. 

    Obviously, he needs to avoid off-field issues that will prevent him from being on the field this fall. I think he will be fine and claim an expanded role as a starter on the offensive line. 

Darius English

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    Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

    Darius English doesn't necessarily have to earn an expanded role. South Carolina needs him to be its premier pass-rushing defensive end. 

    He is packing on the pounds to build up his slim frame, which is great to see. He has such a long body and great wingspan that the extra weight will only make him a more potent pass-rusher off the edge. 

    From a skills standpoint, he has the size and talent to have an immediate impact on the South Carolina defense. He still needs to get stronger and has plenty of time to do so. 

    English will earn the starting nod by the start of the season because his hard work is paying off. The added muscle on an ideal frame will take him to the next level. 

    We may not only see an expanded role for English this fall. We could see the beginnings of an elite defensive end. 

Rico McWilliams

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    Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

    Would Rico McWilliams be a No. 1 or No. 2 starter if Victor Hampton and Ahmad Christian were still around? Probably not. 

    But, they are gone now, so it's time for McWilliams to be the No. 1 cornerback. 

    He may have some company with the positional changes going on that have Brison Williams and Jamari Smith shifting over to cornerback. Nevertheless, McWilliams will need to be the guy who matches up with opposing top receivers. 

    He may have a slow start to the 2014 season as the Gamecocks will be asking a lot out of him; however, he doesn't lack the ability to step up. 

    Per 247Sports, McWilliams was a 3-star recruit who had a lot of success in high school. He has fought through a knee injury for most of his collegiate career. But as he gets healthy, he will see his role expand. 

    South Carolina needs him to become the top cover corner and show that he can lock down No. 1 receivers.  

    He will see the biggest role expansion after being limited in his career due to injury and being a depth cornerback. Now he needs to be ready to be the No. 1 cornerback. That's a pretty big jump, but he looks up for the challenge.