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September 30, 2011
With preseason football practice starting on Aug. 3, GamecockCentral.com presents a new series that takes a look at three players per day who have either played in at least one game or appear on the post-spring two-deep depth chart.
DALTON WILSON, redshirt junior fullback
Before South Carolina: Dalton Wilson walked on to the USC squad after playing at Williston-Elko High School.
The measurables: 6-foot-1, 223 pounds
2009: After spending a year as a walk-on scout-teamer, Wilson was the No. 2 fullback to Patrick DiMarco but only played on special teams. He recorded no statistics.
2010: Again a backup to DiMarco and again primarily a special-teamer, Wilson recorded five tackles on kick coverage and had two kickoff returns against Furman for a combined 23 yards. With DiMarco a team captain and extremely versatile as a blocker or an H-back/tight end, Wilson couldn't get any offensive snaps.
DiMarco's off to free-agent camp and it's finally Wilson's time to make an impact, despite sitting out the spring after undergoing shoulder surgery. Built just like the man he's replacing, Wilson has beaten out Matt Coffee for the job and the only thing left to do is prove he can be the guy. Fullback, especially last year, has become a vital role in the Gamecocks' offense, whether it's blocking for Marcus Lattimore or swinging out for a corner-end zone pass from Stephen Garcia. Wilson's work ethic is excellent and he's become an outstanding representative for the program, so all that's left is to do something on the field. His speed is good for a player his size, his hands are an unknown at this point. But it's a good bet the Gamecocks will try to use him in a "DiMarco play" right off the bat to see what they have.
SHAQ WILSON, redshirt junior linebacker
Before South Carolina: Shaq Wilson was rated by Rivals.com as a three-star prospect out of First Coast (Fla.) High School. Considered and outside linebacker, he was also offered by Georgia Tech, Illinois, Louisville, Miami, Minnesota, Ole Miss and Purdue.
The measurables: 5-foot-11, 233 pounds
2008: An early enrollee who went through spring practice, Wilson didn't take long to get on the field. He played in all 13 games as a true freshman, recording 16 tackles and 15 by himself. He also picked off a pass against UAB and let the world know he was on the field to stay.
2009: Rodney Paulk went down in the season-opener and Wilson stepped right in, starting 11 of 13 games and leading the team with 85 tackles. Wilson's impact for a sophomore was stunning -- on a defense with Cliff Matthews and Eric Norwood, Wilson was the defensive quarterback, barking alignments and getting the defense in position between snaps. He had at least 10 tackles in a game three times and intercepted a pass against Alabama as the Gamecocks smoothly moved on past the loss of Paulk.
2010: Was held out of all but one game after a severe hamstring pull. Received a medical redshirt. In the one game he felt healthy enough to play, at Auburn, Wilson had seven tackles and recovered two fumbles.
Although Tony Straughter and Josh Dickerson ably handled the linebacker corps last year, missing Wilson from the start was a huge blow. After pulling his hamstring on the first day of preseason camp, Wilson never got better and spent the season in a yellow jersey. The defense suffered without him, but adjusted; although he had an incredible game in the one game he played, the rest of the defense wasn't used to having him there and the conflict of who was calling the signals was present. The problems shouldn't last into this year, assuming Wilson can stay healthy (Ellis Johnson said Wilson tweaked the hammy over the summer but it's nothing serious). Wilson will be back in the middle, with Paulk on the outside, and he should be able to lessen his alignment-calling responsibilities, since the defensive line is full of veterans. Wilson can concentrate on stuffing anybody who slips past the front four and getting the secondary in gear, and could have the All-SEC season that eluded him last season.
JAY WOOTEN, redshirt senior kicker
Before South Carolina: Jay Wooten was rated by Rivals.com as a two-star prospect out of Scotland County (N.C.) High School. He signed with North Carolina over Clemson, then transferred to USC after two seasons.
The measurables: 6-foot-3, 203 pounds
2008: Moved into the role as UNC's starting kicker, converting 4-of-6 field goals and 11-for-11 on PATs, before the coaching staff made a change. Wooten transferred after the season.
2009: Sat out the season due to NCAA transfer rules but walked on to the USC football team and participated in practice.
2010: Playing behind Spencer Lanning, Wooten got on the field for one extra point in the blowout against Troy but took over kickoff duties. He dropped five of his 65 kicks into the end zone.
There's a month of training camp ahead, but Wooten seems to be a shoo-in to handle at least two of the kicking jobs, if not all three. A talented, heavy-legged kicker, Wooten has been dynamite in practice as he bided his time behind Lanning for a year. He'll be given the chance to resume kickoff duties and place-kick, and if the Gamecocks can't find a consistent punter (Patrick Fish and Joey Scribner-Howard are the primary candidates), Wooten could pull triple duty. Wooten only has a year to make his name really known, but has the talent and the want-to to do it. Raised as a USC fan due to both parents being USC alums, Wooten considered coming to USC out of high school but knew he would have to wait to play behind Ryan Succop. Although he also had to wait a year after transferring and a year behind Lanning, his opportunity has arrived.
If you have any questions about this feature or wish to discuss it, please visit The Insiders Forum: http://southcarolina.rivals.com/forum.asp?fid=1824
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