Four Gamecocks named to Athlon’s Preseason All-SEC teams

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Athlon Sports has released its 2018 SEC preseason all-conference teams. The national publication has recognized seven Gamecocks among its four squads.

Deebo Samuel garnered first-team honors as both a wide receiver and kick returner. Samuel, a 6-0, 210-pound senior from Inman S.C., was limited to just three games last season due to injury. However, in those three contests, Samuel scored six touchdowns, including a pair of 99-yard kickoff returns. He caught 15 passes for 250 yards and owns 86 career receptions for 1,194 yards.

Three Gamecocks, offensive lineman Zack Bailey, linebacker T.J. Brunson and punter Joseph Charlton, earned second-team recognition.

Bailey, a 6-6, 309-pound senior from Summerville, S.C., moves back to his more natural position of left guard after starting at right tackle last season. He has made 26 starts over the last three seasons at three positions along the offensive line.

Brunson, a 6-1, 225-pound junior from Richland Northeast High School in Columbia, was second on the team in tackles a season ago with 88. A member of the Associated Press’ All-Bowl Team following a dominating performance in the win over Michigan, Brunson was selected as the Rex Enright co-Defensive Player of the Spring.

Charlton, a 6-5, 187-pound junior from A.C. Flora High School in Columbia, averaged 43.5 yards per punt a season ago. He earned the Jim Carlen Most Valuable Player Award for special teams as well as the Most Productive Player Award for special teams.

A pair of junior defensive linemen, Javon Kinlaw and D.J. Wonnum, garnered spots on the third-team All-SEC defense, according to Athlon. Kinlaw, an interior player at 6-6 and 302 pounds, is expected to have a breakout season in his second campaign for the Garnet & Black. The Charleston, S.C. product who prepped at Goose Creek logged 20 tackles a season ago while reshaping his body into an SEC caliber frame. Wonnum, a 6-5, 258-pounder from Stephenson High School in Stone Mountain, Ga., who plays on the edge, was a team captain as a sophomore a season ago. He was a two-time SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week selection and was named the team’s Most Productive Player last fall.

Senior cornerback Rashad Fenton grabbed a spot on Athlon’s fourth-team All-SEC squad. The senior from Miami was credited with one interception and eight pass breakups while collecting 48 tackles a season ago.

The Athlon’s teams are based on how players will perform in 2018. Career statistics and awards matter in the evaluation, but choosing players for the 2018 all-conference team is largely based on predicting and projecting the best for the upcoming year.

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