South Carolina Football: Gamecocks have questions on defense

South Carolina football is back.  The Gamecocks take on Texas A&M this Thursday to kick off the 2014 college football season.  Head coach Steve Spurrier is looking to continue the team’s recent success with a smooth win over the Aggies.  The game is in Columbia, and expectations are as high as ever for the whole season.

South Carolina’s offense has had to adjust to life after Connor Shaw, but the transition has been smooth, and there haven’t been many snags along the way.  Fifth-year senior Dylan Thompson looks comfortable under center and is ready to finally play a game as the number one guy.  Junior running back Mike Davis is a legitimate Heisman candidate and has an impressive offensive line blocking for him.  Receivers Shaq Roland and Pharoh Cooper are both ready to have breakout seasons for the Gamecocks.

The offense may be set, but there are some question marks on defense.  The defensive line and secondary had most positions up for grabs coming into the spring.  Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles, Chaz Sutton and Jimmy Legree all had to be replaced.  The linebackers, the concern coming into 2013, seemed to be the only continuity the defense would have.  Sophomore Skai Moore was expected to lead a battle-hardened group that would keep the defense together.  That may not happen quite yet however.

Moore, the team’s top tackler from a year ago, is NOT going to start against Texas A&M.  Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward decided that Jonathon Walton will start over Moore for the season opener.  Moore apparently injured his shoulder and chose not to get treatment.  “He has to get treatment,” Ward shrugged.  “You don’t go to treatment, you don’t play.”  (Via GoGamecocks)

Moore will see time early, but it’s clear that his starting spot has to be earned and he has to work to keep it.  T.J. Holloman will be alongside Walton, earning his fourth start.  The secondary situation seems to change on a daily basis.  Senior Brison Williams originally switched from corner to safety, but he’s listed back as the starting corner.  There will be a few true freshman playing in the secondary as well.

Ward has also said to expect some 3-4 defense against A&M.  The Gamecocks have relied on their 4-2-5 formation for the majority of Ward’s time as defensive coordinator, and the Gamecocks have rarely gone with three defensive linemen.  It’s unclear how much 3-4 we will see on Thursday.  That will depend on Texas A&M’s offensive approach.

There have been some late surprises in the game plan for Spurrier and the Gamecocks, but there is no reason that South Carolina won’t win its 19th straight at home.  The game will be on the SEC Network this Thursday with kickoff at 6:05 PM.