Gamecocks' Brinkley out for season with a knee injury

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Only hours after learning his senior
season was finished with a knee injury, South Carolina star
linebacker Jasper Brinkley was pointing toward next year.

Brinkley, on the preseason watch lists for the Lombardi and
Butkus awards, sustained a right knee sprain during the Gamecocks'
28-16 loss at No. 2 LSU last Saturday.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Monday the team expects
to get a medical waiver from the NCAA so Brinkley can be with the
Gamecocks in 2008. Jasper's twin, Casper, expects his younger
brother to return next fall.

"He's very excited about having another chance to come back and
play his whole year," said Casper, who also starts for South
Carolina's defense.

When asked about his standout middle linebacker Sunday, Spurrier
said Jasper would most likely miss a few days of practice but
expected him to be ready when No. 16 South Carolina faces
Mississippi State on Saturday.

The prognosis worsened Monday. Spurrier expected Jasper to need
about three months of rehab after surgery.

"At first, he was real down about it," Casper said. "This
whole year, we were planning on this being a big year, going out
with a bang this year. But he's holding up pretty good."

Jasper Brinkley was a key part of South Carolina's successful
start this season. He had 21 tackles and led the team with two

More importantly, Casper said, Jasper was the leader everyone
else could follow.

"Next year at this time, we might be saying, 'We're glad he got
hurt,'" Spurrier said Monday night. "We all plan to be here next
year. We should definitely have a stronger team next year. In a
way, having Jasper here next year is a positive."

The Gamecocks were fortunate to have the 6-foot-2, 262-pounder
around this year. Jasper Brinkley led the team -- and was fourth in
the Southeastern Conference -- with 107 tackles, which was more than
double the next highest Gamecock defender.

Jasper, though, passed up the lure of the NFL draft for his
senior season.

And it looked like the right decision, at least in the eyes of
Gamecock fans, when Jasper Brinkley had a late interception to
preserve South Carolina's 16-12 victory at Georgia on Sept. 8.

Brinkley hoped to have a similar impact at second-ranked LSU,
but was hurt in the opening quarter. He went back in briefly before
leaving the game for good.

Casper said Jasper thought he only had a "little bump on the

"But after the game, he was in so much pain, he knew it was
serious," Casper Brinkley said.

Jasper Brinkley showed similar grit earlier this season, missing
several preseason practices and some of the Gamecocks'
season-opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Brinkley is the second starter South Carolina's defense has lost
for the year. Defensive lineman Nathan Pepper injured his left knee
on a 19-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 38-3 win over
South Carolina State on Sept. 15.

Gamecock coaches shifted Casper Brinkley from linebacker to
Pepper's end position. This time, Spurrier said junior linebacker
Marvin Sapp, second on the team with 51 tackles a year ago, would
get the call to clog up the middle the way Jasper Brinkley did so

"We've had previous injuries," Sapp said. "But we've done a
great job of pulling together in times when it's really rough and
key people go down."