See these frequently in the Georgetown area. They range in height from 2-4 ft. All have a similar shape to the one in the photo.
Hi Rick, pretty odd picture! The only thing that I can think of that these could be are dead longleaf pine saplings, Pinus palustris. I cannot remember seeing any like this previously. There is an important disease of longleaf pine called Brown spot, caused by the fungus Micosphaerella dearnessii, that infects these pines in their grass stage, and you can find out more about that here: http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/course/pp318/profiles_mirror/fdc/fdc.htm
As you probably know, saplings of longleaf pine should look like the image found on this site: http://trianglenaturalist.blogspot.com/2008_11_01_archive.html
Unless there is a terrible drought, I cannot think of another reason why these saplings have died. They are even well-adapted to fires, and these have not even been burned because the leaves are still hanging on the plant, more typical of the fungus disease. I hope this does not mean that a major new disease is spreading among the coastal longleaf pines – that would be a disaster… I hope that someone will correct me if I am wrong. I am not an expert on fungi or plant diseases.
Sincerely, Steve Hill, Botanist, SCNPS