Redshirt freshman to watch

South Carolina has begun to build depth that has put the Gamecocks in a position they've never been before. As depth increases, more players are likely to redshirt their first season on campus. Here's a look at some potential redshirt freshman to keep an eye on during the 2012 season.

The Gamecocks' season-opener is nearly a week away as they continue to get ready to open the 2012 season on the road against the Vanderbilt Commodores.

South Carolina returns a host of talented upperclassman headlined by Marcus Lattimore, Devin Taylor, D.J. Swearinger and Connor Shaw. However there may be a few redshirt freshman to keep an eye on during the 2012 season.

1. OT Brandon Shell
The 6-foot-6, 331-pound offensive tackle from Goose Creek, South Carolina has everything you would want in a prototypical tackle at this level. He's got the massive size and strength to handle the left tackle position for the Gamecocks, which is important in the protection of quarterback Connor Shaw.

Shell was named the Most Improved Offensive Lineman at the 2012 Garnet and Black Spring Game and likely would have played more in 2011 if he wasn't hampered by a shoulder injury.

2. CB Ahmad Christian
The injuries suffered at the cornerback position this fall have been well-documented. This will provide an opportunity for Christian to make a valuable contribution to the Gamecocks.

The 5-foot-10, 189-pound cornerback is currently running with the second-team right now behind Victor Hampton. Christian was impressive in fall camp of 2011 and is a very athletic cornerback that should see a lot of playing time this season.

3. DT Gerald Dixon Jr.
Dixon Jr. has an opportunity to step up and fill a role at defensive tackle with J.T. Surratt serving a three-game suspension to start the season.

Byron Jerideau is the likely starter next to Kelcy Quarles at tackle but there will need to be a player to fill in as a quality backup. Dixon Jr. is a guy that won't wow you on the field with physical attributes but he's someone who can get the job done. A step up in his performance this year could be a big boost for the depth at defensive tackle.

4. WR K.J. Brent
The Gamecocks lost their vertical threat when Alshon Jeffery elected to go to the NFL after the 2011 season ended. There is a need for a bigger receiver to elevate his game and Brent is a player that has the size and reliable hands to be a player for South Carolina this season.

Playing time is wide open at the receiver position and Brent needs to step in and showcase his talent. He did well in fall camp last year before redshirting and has had moments so far this camp including a 22-yard touchdown in a recent scrimmage for the Gamecocks. If he can make his way into the rotation, he could be a player to watch this fall.

Each of these four players could play a key role for the Gamecocks this season. Some may be more immediate than others, but South Carolina was able to redshirt some extremely talented players last season and they could really benefit as early as this upcoming 2012 season.

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