Shaq looking to make it back

Linebacker Shaq Wilson has had perhaps the most frustrating fall camp of any Gamecocks, as he has missed significant time with a strained hamstring that continues to be a concern heading into the season opener against Southern Miss. But as it gets closer to game time, Wilson has at least some reason for optimism as he looks to contribute at weakside linebacker.

Learning a new position is hard enough. But to throw an injury on top of it has just made things even more difficult for South Carolina linebacker Shaq Wilson. The Florida native is making the transition to weakside linebacker from the middle linebacker spot he played last year, but has not been able to gain much experience during fall practices due to his nagging injury.

"It's just day-by-day," said Wilson. "I feel like I'm getting better. I just want to play football. I'm just getting better, getting stronger, doing everything that the coaches and trainers tell me to do."

Not only has Wilson suffered as a result of missing time, but perhaps the rest of the defense as well. Wilson has been called the "quarterback" of the defense and is often responsible for making calls and determining alignment during game situations. If he is unable to go, the USC defense may be the one hurting come September 2nd.

"I feel like I've let some of my teammates down, just because I felt like I wasn't helping the other linebackers out," said Wilson. "I mean if I know everything, the other linebackers should know everything exactly as me because we're in the same meetings and stuff. I'm just trying to make sure they know everything, if they have any questions or anything I just try to make sure they know it. One person doesn't make a defense, there's eleven people out there. I'm proud of the other linebackers."

Wilson said that it is very important for everyone to participate in calling the defense, despite the fact the defense is usually decided by the middle or weakside linebacker.

Communication will be a big key for a Carolina defense currently missing one of its strongest pieces.

"It's up to both of us to make the calls. Really it's up to the whole defense; everybody knows the calls, know the signals and everything. But you've got to be able to speak up and get people in place."

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson said after Saturday's scrimmage that there are players prepared to step up in Wilson's absence, but none of them can really take his place.

"Today its Quin Smith, he's a little ahead of Tony Straughter, but those two guys are neck and neck to back him up," said Johnson. "They're not Shaq. But I did see improvement today."

Even with some players starting to play well behind him, Wilson said it's all about getting into games and helping his team win. And when it comes time to put the pads on in Williams-Brice, Wilson added that it will take a lot to hold him back.

"I came to Carolina to get an education and play football, and right now I can't play football," said Wilson. "Just trying to get ready for the game, you've got to be in shape, and to play football you've got to be able to run north and south, go sideways, and with a hamstring it's just nagging. I've just got to keep believing and keep a positive attitude. I've been waiting ever since January, since the last game, to play, so I'm not going to let this get in the way."

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