When examining the respective depth charts for Clemson and South Carolina as they get set to battle on Saturday at Williams-Brice Stadium, the talent differential between the two teams is obvious.
But just how many of the Gamecocks’ starters do we think would be a starter if they played for the Tigers? The Clemson Insider decided to take a look at each team’s starters and see.
Here’s how we think the starting lineups on offense and defense would look if we had to choose between Clemson and Carolina players:
LT: Jackson Carman (Clemson)
LG: John Simpson (Clemson)
C: Sean Pollard (Clemson)
RG: Gage Cervenka (Clemson)
RT: Tremayne Anchrum (Clemson)
TE: Kyle Markway (South Carolina)
WR: Tee Higgins (Clemson)
QB: Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)
RB: Travis Etienne (Clemson)
WR: Justyn Ross (Clemson)
WR: Amari Rodgers (Clemson)
As you can see, the only starter on South Carolina’s offense that we think would start for the Tigers is tight end is Kyle Markway. The junior has 28 receptions for 310 yards and two touchdowns, while Clemson starting tight end J.C. Chalk has only caught 10 passes for 57 yards and no scores.
South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards is an outstanding wide receiver and one of the best players the Gamecocks have ever had at the position. However, he is listed on Carolina’s depth chart at the same position as Tee Higgins, and we would give the projected first-round NFL Draft pick the edge over Edwards.
Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne were no-brainer choices at quarterback and running back, respectively, while Clemson has the clear advantage on the offensive line as well. Gamecocks sophomore right tackle Dylan Wonnum is talented and earned SEC All-Freshman honors last season, though we would take Clemson senior right tackle Tremayne Anchrum, a second-team All-ACC performer in 2018, because of his experience. South Carolina left guard Donnell Stanley is a solid player, but not better in our eyes than John Simpson, who was recently named a semifinalist for the 2019 Outland Trophy which is awarded annually to the nation’s top interior lineman on offense or defense.
DE: Aaron Sterling (South Carolina)
DT: Javon Kinlaw (South Carolina)
DT: Tyler Davis (Clemson)
DE: DJ Wonnum (South Carolina)
SLB/NB: Isaiah Simmons (Clemson)
MLB: James Skalski (Clemson) or Ernest Jones (South Carolina)
WLB: Chad Smith (Clemson)
CB: Derion Kendrick (Clemson) or Israel Mukuamu (South Carolina)
SS: K’Von Wallace (Clemson)
FS: Tanner Muse (Clemson)
CB: AJ Terrell (Clemson)
South Carolina has more playmakers on defense than offense, especially up front led by defensive linemen Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Wonnum and Aaron Sterling, all of whom have six sacks which is tied for sixth among all SEC players. Kinlaw is a projected first-round draft pick and Wonnum is a Senior Bowl invitee, while Sterling leads the Gamecocks with 10 tackles for loss. The only Clemson or Carolina player that has more TFLs is Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons, who has 12 and is the best all-around defender on either roster. We would have named Xavier Thomas a starter because of his huge upside, but his production has been limited this season as he missed time with a concussion.
At middle linebacker, we named Clemson’s James Skalski and South Carolina’s Ernest Jones as co-starters. Skalski leads the Tigers with 75 total tackles, including six tackles for loss and three sacks to go with three pass breakups and seven quarterback pressures, while Jones leads the Gamecocks with 88 total tackles, including 5.5 TFLs and a sack, and also has two interceptions with five pass breakups. It was simply too close to call there. At weak-side linebacker, we gave Clemson’s Chad Smith the nod over South Carolina’s T.J. Brunson. While Smith (55) has 16 less total tackles than Brunson (71), Smith has three sacks and eight quarterback hurries while Brunson has no sacks or quarterback hurries.
In the secondary, the only Carolina player we think would have a chance of starting at Clemson is sophomore cornerback Israel Mukuamu, who is tied for first in the SEC with four interceptions. However, Clemson did not offer Mukuamu during the recruiting process, so we can not say he would definitely start for the Tigers. Therefore, we named him and Derion Kendrick co-starters.
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