South Carolina’s highest-rated signee has right person pushing him; D-line preview

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

Great expectations

As a South Carolina alum, Keshia Sandidge expects big things from her son Rick  when he arrives in Columbia. Rick, a 4-star defensive tackle, signed with the Gamecocks over offers from Georgia, North Carolina and others on National Signing Day.

“I’m really hard on my kid, so I expect for him to not be lazy, to get up and get off his butt and [run to] the ball, even if it doesn’t run towards him,” Keshia said, “And I expect him to play well.”

Sandidge is the Gamecocks’ highest-rated commit for the 2018 cycle. The Concord, N.C., native is rated as the No. 141 overall prospect for 2018, according to the 247Sports composite.

Next generation

What will South Carolina’s defensive line look like in 2018? SEC Country’s Hale McGranahan previews the unit as it looks to replace three key contributors .

“Everyone gets a fair chance to play. The Gamecocks third-year coach will roll with whomever gives his team the best chance to win,” McGranahan writes. “It’s just that there’s plenty of opportunity for snaps along the defensive front.”

McGranahan projects four juniors as starters, led by ‘Buck’ D.J. Wonnum, South Carolina’s top returning defensive lineman in tackles (57), tackles for loss (13) and sacks (6).

Getting ready

Four former Gamecocks are preparing for the 2018 NFL Combine . Tight end Hayden Hurst, cornerback Jamarcus King, linebacker Skai Moore and defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth were all invited to participate in the annual event, starting Feb. 27 in Indianapolis.

“Those guys have worked extremely hard and are certainly very deserving of the opportunity, as are some other guys that didn’t get invited to the combine, quite frankly. It’s not an answer-all to go to the combine,” Muschamp said. “I’ve had guys get drafted in the third and fourth round that didn’t go to the combine.” analyst Bucky Brooks has Hurst tabbed as the No. 2 tight end prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft. The draft itself starts on April 26 in Arlington, Texas.

‘South Carolina’s atmosphere is always great’

Three-star running back and Class of 2019 prospect Michel Dukes boasts an impressive offer list , including South Carolina, Arkansas, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and more.

The Charleston, S.C., native already has a strong relationship with Gamecocks running backs coach Bobby Bentley.

“Muschamp is a great coach. Their program is — Coach Bentley’s been telling me that they’re in a rebuilding stage, but this year, I think they’re going to be good,” Dukes said. “South Carolina’s atmosphere is always great. Every time I go up there, they welcome me like I’m already one of them, like I’m already family, so that’s good. I look at that a lot.”

Dukes is rated as the No. 74 running back prospect for 2019, per the 247Sports composite.

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Get excited

Having played under new South Carolina quarterbacks coach Dan Werner from 2012-14, former Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace has nothing but good things to say about the Gamecocks’ newest position coach.

“I know that Jake [Bentley] should be excited about who he gets to be in the meeting room with every day,” Wallace told The State’s Josh Kendall . “I think he’s going to take his game to another level. He’s already a great quarterback, and if he just listens to Dan, I think he’s going to have a really good season next year and be really efficient.”

Wallace threw completed 63 percent of his passes for 9,534 yards and 62 touchdowns and ran for 944 yards and 19 scores in his three seasons under Werner.

In the spotlight

Former South Carolina point guard PJ Dozier made his NBA debut for the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night.

Dozier had 2 points and 1 rebound in 2 minutes of action in the Thunder’s 106-81 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Dozier left South Carolina in 2017 after his sophomore season in which he averaged 13.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in helping lead the Gamecocks to their first-ever Final Four.

The Columbia native went undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft before inking a two-way contract with the Thunder last October.

Solid start

South Carolina’s softball team opened its season with a strong showing in the Felsberg Invitational in Miami over the weekend.

The Gamecocks posted wins over Hofstra (twice), East Carolina and St. John’s to move to 4-1 on the season.

The Gamecocks went 34-25 in 2017, reaching the regional final for the third time under coach Beverly Smith.

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