It's never easy when you lose one of your star players to the NFL draft.
This is no exception for the Gamecocks after losing key contributor Stephon Gilmore at the cornerback position to the Buffalo Bills. His early entry into the NFL draft, along with the graduation of C.C. Whitlock and Marty Markett, certainly gives the Gamecocks a few concerns at the cornerback position heading into the 2012 season.
There may be some fresh faces who step up in the mix for South Carolina, but luckily for the Gamecocks, there's a veteran whose return will bring great value to the defense.
Akeem Auguste sat out the 2011 season with a foot injury so his return to the field will bring a veteran presence in a group that will need his experience. Auguste has started 19 games over the course of his career in 36 total games with 118 total tackles and 6.0 tackles for loss.
The other projected starter is redshirt sophomore cornerback Victor Hampton. Hampton is a player with all the physical tools you need to be an excellent cornerback. He plays with a lot of emotion and should bring energy to this defense in a variety of ways. The only question with Hampton is his mental game. Can he stay composed on and off the field? If you judge by this summer, it appears Hampton is on the right track which is good for the Gamecocks.
Behind these two players, things turn into a question mark.
South Carolina is already down two cornerbacks due to transfer and injury. Sophomore cornerback Cadarious Sanders elected to transfer last week in hopes of finding more playing time at another school. The Gamecocks lost true freshman Rico McWilliams to a season-ending knee injury during the second practice of fall camp.
So where does that leave the Gamecocks?
Jimmy Legree, Ahmad Christian, Chaz Elder and Chris Moody are the likely candidates to fill the backup roles for the Gamecocks.
Legree has been in the program since 2009 and has started experience at the free safety position. However, there has been inconsistent play out of Legree and USC will need a solid campaign out of him in 2012. Christian is a player that was very impressive in fall camp before the 2011 season and looks like a great candidate to fill a back-up role. He's also sized right at 5'10", 189-pounds so he can handle the job if necessary.
Elder and Moody are the two freshman in the mix but Elder might be more ready to play the position now based on high school experiences. He's got the size that can allow him to play cornerback or safety at 6'2", 187-pounds and is solid all-around defender versus the run and pass. Moody fits the bill size-wise as well but did spend time at quarterback in high school so there will be a transition for him to become a full-time cornerback at the next level.
In a perfect world, Akeem Auguste remains healthy as does Victor Hampton with the Gamecocks getting great value out of backups Jimmy Legree and Ahmad Christian. However, Auguste has suffered from a groin injury during some of the fall practice already and if he misses more significant time then there has to be concern with the depth chart at cornerback.
South Carolina's secondary is generally one of the best in college football. The talent level is there for it to rise to the occasion. The only thing is you have to have healthy bodies ready to compete.
In the Gamecocks case, it's certainly something to watch this upcoming season.
Concerns at cornerback?
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