Gamecocks experimenting on defense

The spring is the time to try out a few things, and that's exactly what South Carolina assistant head coach for the defense Ellis Johnson is doing.

The Gamecocks opened practice on Tuesday, and there were several defensive players in new spots. As previously announced, senior Akeem Auguste was back at cornerback after playing safety last season.

Auguste said cornerback is the more natural position for him. Whether it is or isn't, Johnson just wants to see his defensive backs be more consistent in pass coverage next season.

"I'm back to where I'm comfortable," said Auguste, who started nine games at cornerback in 2009, but moved to safety last season, allowing Chris Culliver to move to cornerback.

Two other players were also on the move Tuesday. There had been chatter about Damario Jeffery shifting from the Spur hybrid position to weakside linebacker, and that's where Jeffery was Tuesday. He's likely to stay there, too, after backing up Antonio Allen at Spur last season.

It's still to be determined if the other move will stick. DeVonte Holloman, the starter at strong safety last season, worked at the Spur. More than anything, Johnson is trying to build some depth at Spur, but Holloman is pushing 230 pounds. Sophomore Corey Addison worked with the first-team safeties alongside junior D.J. Swearinger.

Holloman may well go back to safety and conceded Tuesday that was his preference, but he's an explosive athlete who's going to make plays no matter where he lines up in that South Carolina defense.

The new face to watch on defense for the Gamecocks is freshman Kelcy Quarles, who's going through spring practice after spending last fall at prep school. If he's ready to play right away at tackle, that gives the Gamecocks even more flexibility with Melvin Ingram, who can play both inside and outside and is one of the better pass-rushers on the team.

The early returns suggest that this should be one of South Carolina's better defensive lines in years, particularly if Jadeveon Clowney is the real deal when he steps on campus this summer.