Legree ready to take on challenge

Akeem Auguste, expected to be one of the leaders in the secondary this season, will likely miss half of the season with a groin injury, if not longer. With Auguste out Jimmy Legree is expected to take over at the cornerback position in Auguste's absence.

When the latest injury to Akeem Auguste occurred less than two weeks before ninth-ranked South Carolina traveled to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores to open the 2012 season, concerns grew at an already thin and inexperienced position. Auguste is the only senior on the roster that has played a down in college (redshirt senior David Wilkins is in his first year of football after spending the last two seasons on the track team). In fact, Auguste's replacement, Jimmy Legree, is the only other upperclassman at the position. However, this is the first time Legree has played corner after spending his first two seasons at the free safety position.

Legree started the first two games last season before being replaced by DeVonte Holloman and spent the rest of the season as a back-up to Holloman. Legree played in 12 games and finished with eight tackles. Now Legree is back at the position he played in high school at Beaufort High School for head coach Mark Clifford. In his senior season alone Legree had three interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.

"After the season I had a talk with Coach Ward and we agreed that he would move me back to cornerback," Legree said. "Corner is my natural position and where I'm most comfortable at."

Auguste has had a terrible string of bad luck with injuries lately. After missing a few games late in his freshman season with a hamstring injury, Auguste played two straight seasons without an injury. In 2009 he played in 10 games with nine starts and played in every game in 2010. Auguste suffered a foot injury prior to fall camp last season and missed all of fall camp. He was expected to recover and play, but after playing against Georgia, Auguste continued to be hampered by the injury and would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery.

This season Auguste missed most of camp with the groin injury, but returned on the 17th. In the team's third scrimmage the following day Auguste took himself out after injuring the groin again and underwent a procedure the next day and will be out for a month or longer. Legree had been preparing himself to step into the starting role the entire fall.

"I was anticipating it," Legree said. "Stuff like this happens all the time. I just have to be able to handle it and we have to overcome it."

If there is a bright side to the situation, Auguste missing so much practice time enabled Legree to step up into his role and practice with the starters. That allowed his transition to starting much easier.

"It's been real helpful," Legree said of running with the starters. "I was running with the one's when Akeem was out and when he did get hurt it was nothing new to me. I was already running with them."

One of the reasons Holloman was moved to free safety was to get him on the field more, but the main reason was Legree's ineffectiveness at the position.

"It was hard, but I handled it as best as I could," Legree said. "I'm just ready to bounce back now."

Now that Legree is likely going to be the starter Thursday night in Nashville, he has a chance to bounce back and have a solid outing against the Commodores.

"This year I'm excited and have a chance to redeem myself and step in and make big plays," Legree said.

With defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward taking over the reins of the defense after Ellis Johnson left to take on the head coaching job at Southern Miss, he has promised to bring more pressure and be more aggressive. That plays right into the hands of Legree's favorite style of play.

"Mine would be bump-and-run," Legree said. "I can get up on the line and re-route the receiver pretty good and just run with him then."

A lot of eyes will be on Legree Thursday to see how he performs in his debut at cornerback. No doubt Legree will get plenty of action as Vanderbilt will likely choose to throw his way more than the way of the more proven cornerback, Victor Hampton. Make no mistake, Legree was not happy when he learned the news of his teammate's injury, but he is looking forward to his opportunity this season on what should be one of the league's best defensive unit.

"I'm just ready to step up and take responsibility," Legree said. "I'm going to pray for him to get better and come back this season.

"This defense should have some fun this year. We're ready to make some plays."


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