Carolina’s defense has been a big question mark on everyone’s mind. Besides the occasional ‘Dylan Thompson-has-big-shoes-to-fill comment’, there really has been no doubting South Carolina’s offense, and according to head coach Steve Spurrier, for good reason.
”Got a lot of offensive players back, offensive linemen just about all are back. Got a chance to have one of the best O-lines we’ve ever had.”
Spurrier also noted, in place of Connor Shaw, Thompson will be a great player and will be able to lead the team.
That being said, the defense has handled the biggest impact on losing starters. Jadeveon Clowney, Chaz Sutton, and Kelcy Quarles have all moved up in the game. However, Spurrier noted they should have a solid line-up this year, and J.T. Surratt is one to keep an eye on for making big plays this season.
”J.T. Surratt probably will be one of our senior captains when we do the voting in mid-season. He’s played a lot. I think he started about all the games last year. He’s a good solid inside player.”
The fifth-year senior accompanied the Gamecock crew to SEC Media Days last week and noted he will indeed have to step up and play a leadership role on defense going into this season. “Still be a cheerleader, but at the same time, show the leadership and let the guys know we’ve still got enough time to do what we have to do. I have to be able to keep the hungry in them and have to be ready to go at all times.”
Surratt has made 14 career starts, including every single game last season. He notched 33 tackles with 4 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. The defensive tackle was listed as a preseason All-SEC third-team selection by Phil Steele this year and will be a big part of the defensive line-up.
Phil Steele has Surratt accompanied by Abu Lamin with him at DT. Skai Moore and Sharrod Golightly are expected to also see some time on the field, according to the 2014 Projected Starting Lineup. As a true sophomore, Moore played in all 13 games last year making four starts. Golightly stands as a fifth-year senior and started all 12 regular-season games at the SPUR position.
“We’ve got a lot of people coming back. We lost some big guys, but at the same time, we’ve got some guys that can make a name for themselves,”Surratt said.“We have people that are stepping up already and filling those leadership roles. We’ve got a young linebacker core, and they’re all ready to fill in these leadership roles.”
With kick-off set for August 28th on the SEC Network at Williams-Brice Stadium, there are only 36 days left remaining and that means only 36 days left to prepare.
Quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel, A.J. McCarron, and even Gamecock Connor Shaw have left the conference to go on to walk in the steps of their career path. Surratt explained with all of the new QB’s emerging for several schools, South Carolina is just trying to take it game by game.
“Our whole main goal this summer is to get everybody prepared to the best of their ability and be ready for the season. Everyone’s summer is just competing and trying to make everybody better. We have Texas A&M on August 28th and that’s who we are preparing for.”
To answer the big question mark looming around the defense, Surratt noted time will tell all on the field.
“We’ve got a lot of us who are hungry and eager to start this year just so that we can, not so much quiet some things, but show everyone that we’re not going to fall off.”
GamecockPride.com will keep you updated on the upcoming 2014 football season.