No team risks an injury to a player recovering from surgery in the spring, which means South Carolina will have several key defenders either sidelined or severely limited when spring practice opens on Thursday.
Senior Chris Culliver, who's making the move from safety to cornerback, is recovering from shoulder surgery. It's his second shoulder surgery in less than a year, and one of the reasons he and Akeem Auguste are swapping positions is that the Gamecocks' defensive staff thinks Culliver will be able to better protect his shoulder at cornerback than safety.
Some of the other key names on defense that will be sitting out the spring are end Cliff Matthews (shoulder), tackle Travian Robertson (knee), linebacker Reggie Bowens (shoulder) and linebacker Rodney Paulk (knee).
In addition, tackle Ladi Ajiboye will probably do very little this spring just to make sure he's healthy entering preseason camp.
Sounds like some new faces on defense for the Gamecocks will have a big opportunity this spring to show what they can do.
One of the guys to watch, in my mind, is sophomore safety DeVonte Holloman. He's up to 226 pounds, and after starting in two games a year ago, is poised to be an enforcer at strong safety.