On the rise

Gamecock Anthem takes a look at several players whose stock is on the rise.

On the rise
WR Damiere Byrd – 5-9, 161 - FR-HS - Sicklerville, N.J.
Quick Hitter: Byrd has been a standout since the Gamecocks' first practice of the preseason. But unlike some freshman who show flashes early and then fade some as the grind of practices hits -- and unlike some smaller, quicker players who become less effective once the pads go on and the hitting starts -- Byrd has continued to produce and has done everything he can to prove he can be a major deep threat in the South Carolina offense. Byrd appears comfortable in the offense for a freshman. Also, unlike some track speedsters, he's a natural catching the football and has shown the ability to adjust to the deep ball. Byrd's deep catch in Wednesday's scrimmage was a thing of beauty as he showed an extra gear when he accelerated to the ball while it was in the air to make the grab.
RB Shon Carson - 5-8, 190 - FR-HS - Scranton, S.C.
Quick Hitter: Carson was a known commodity coming in but early on he's proved to be better than it was even believed in high school. The Lake City product has seemingly quickly passed Eric Baker for the No. 3 running back role and is coming up fast on the tail of current No. 2 back Kenny Miles. Carson has been productive in the scrimmages and has shown excellent vision with explosion and a knack for cutting back at the appropriate time. Carson has also proved to be a solid receiver out of the backfield. While Miles' experience still has him ahead of Carson, the freshman is going all he can to make a move towards that spot.
QB Connor Shaw - 6-1, 202 - SO-1L - Flowery Branch, Ga.
Quick Hitter: Shaw had an up-and-down spring when many fans were hoping that the true sophomore could show he was ready to lead the team with uncertainty around Stephen Garcia at the time. Garcia has since proved he's ready to lead the team in his fifth season but Shaw has also stepped his game up. Shaw looks more and more comfortable in the pocket and released two perfect deep balls early in Wednesday's scrimmage. Shaw had to be removed early after he dislocated his thumb, but is expected to be fine in a couple of days. With his emergence, South Carolina has two capable quarterbacks.
K Jay Wooten - 6-3, 203 - SR-1L - Laurinburg, N.C.
Quick Hitter: Replacing senior kicker Spencer Lanning once appeared to be one of the most difficult tasks of the offseason. But Wooten has made it look easy in practice, hitting many of his field goal attempts, including what Steve Spurrier called a "scholarship kick" early in the preseason. Wooten has a big leg and seems to get more trajectory on the ball than Lanning did while making it look effortless. The public hasn't had the chance to see Wooten attempt from kicks from really long, but he's hit his 45-yarders (or so) with plenty of room to spare and usually the same height as his shorter kicks. Wooten obviously still has to do it in the games, but he's done nothing in practice but show he's ready to be a really good kicker.
WR K.J. Brent - 6-3, 180 - FR-HS - Waxhaw, N.C.
Quick Hitter: With Byrd and Shamier Jeffery coming in, Brent was seemingly the forgotten man as far as the freshman receivers went. Brent was fairly quiet in the first few practices but came on strong in the latter open practices and has kept improving. It still seems more likely that Brent will redshirt because he's got a similar skillset to some of the older receivers on the roster who will definitely play. But Brent has shown good hands, good route-running ability and a knack for getting open and catching the ball in traffic. He makes what's already a tough decision for Steve Spurrier, Jr. an even harder one.
RB Brandon Wilds - 6-1, 223 - FR-HS - Blythewood, S.C.
Quick Hitter: Wilds was somewhat of an afterthought compared to the top-ranked prospects in his class. But the local product has quickly proved that he belongs and Spurrier even said after the scrimmage that Wilds would probably play this year because of his athleticism and ability to help on special teams, too. But Wilds has proved he's got a future at running back, too. Many believed he'd ultimately be a fullback, but he's proved early on that he's got a chance to potentially carry the rock later on in his career.

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