Spring Preview: Tight ends

Believe it or not, spring football practice is right on the horizon again. Gamecock Anthem begins its previews of practice with this look at the tight ends. Look inside for your look at the tight ends returning and storylines to watch. South Carolina's spring practice beings March 13 at 4:15.

Returning Starters

6-foot-3, 265 pound SR Justice Cunningham (Pageland, S.C.) - Played in all 13 games. Caught 18 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown. Key blocker in the running game and also played fullback at times.

Recruiting rewind - No. 112 DE. Offers - N.C. State and Michigan State.

6-foot-5, 207 pound SO Rory Anderson (Powder Springs, Ga.) - Played in all 13 games. The "starter" in two-tight end sets. Officially started two games. Undersized but effective blocker. Caught eight passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns. Big-play threat that got better as the year progressed.

Recruiting rewind - No. 31 TE. Offers - Tennessee, USF and Virginia among many others.

Others Returning

6-foot-5, 241 pound RS FR Drew Owens (Charlotte, N.C.) - Did not play. Redshirted.

Recruiting rewind - No. 23 TE. Offers - Michigan, North Carolina and NC State among others.

Early Enrollees

6-foot-3, 216 pound FR Kelvin Rainey (Yulee, Fla.) - Graduated early from Yulee HS.

Recruiting rewind - No. 31 TE. Offers - Arkansas, Clemson, Georgia, Florida and Florida State among others.

Objectives and Storylines

Will Anderson take another step forward?
One of the biggest surprises of last season was the play of freshman Rory Anderson. Despite being barely over 200 pounds, Anderson proved to be a solid blocker in two-tight end sets due to a high effort level.

While he only had eight catches on the year, Anderson showed a knack for the big play and a knack to sneak open when everything else was covered.

Anderson also played basketball in high school but has an excellent frame and should be able to truly begin growing into the position with a year in a college football weight training program.

Will Anderson be ready to take that next step forward already? He's not someone that has been talked about much this offseason, but he could be ready to have a big spring.

How will Rainey look?
Normally the fans have to wait until August to get a look at the freshmen, but they'll get an early look at Rainey this spring.

There's a lot of talent at the tight end position, and even more on the way, but Rainey could prove to be an athletic threat in the passing game and has some versatility as well.

He'll have the advantage of already going through the winter workout program, and will get a chance to make an early positive impression on the coaching staff before Jerell Adams arrives in the summer.

Who plays more of an H-back role?
Fullback Dalton Wilson has graduated and won't be back with the team for his last year of eligibility, and that leaves an opportunity for a blocker in the backfield.

The Gamecocks don't have a proven commodity at fullback, but with so many options at tight end, that could allow more opportunities for playing time for those guys.

Cunningham has spent some time in the backfield in his career, specifically in shot gun formations, but could provide a big blocker in the I as well. Rainey spent time in the backfield as a high schooler and could be an athletic blocker that would also be a mismatch in the passing game.

There's no indication that these two will definitely play some fullback, but it would definitely make sense.

Looking Ahead

6-foot-6, 224-pound FR Jerell Adams (Pinewood, S.C.) - The former three-star prospect did it all for Scott's Branch HS but will concentrate on playing tight end in Columbia, though many believe he'd make a great defensive end as well. Adams showed he could be an excellent downfield threat from the TE position when he caught three touchdowns at the Shrine Bowl. The tight end position is crowded but Adams may be too much of a weapon to keep off the field.

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