The Final Cockdown: #20 T.J. Gurley

Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE

The true sophomore saftey is one of a number of Gamecock defenders recovering from a torn knee ligament that ended his 2012 season.

T.J. Gurley
True Sophomore Strong Safety
5'10", 196 lbs.
Cairo, GA

Recruitment:
3 stars, #55 cornerback in 2012 class
Other offers: Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Mississippi State. Gurley had a relatively quiet recruitment, making his pledge to the Gamecocks in the July of 2011.

College Career:
Gurley burst onto the scene with a strong showing in last year's fall camp, in which he first became known to Gamecock fans for his aggressive style of play and his eagerness to hit and hit hard. In fact, T.J.'s proclivity for delivering bone-crushing tackles - in practice, mind you - inspired defensive backs coach Grady Brown to deliver, in his measured drawl, one of the more entertaining quotes I've heard from a football coach:

In certain situations he compromises the health of the receivers.

That's not necessarily a bad thing when you're talking about the opponents' receivers, but the Head Ball Coach no doubt had a talk with the precocious freshman to reorient him to the famously light contact nature of Steve Spurrier's practices.

In game action, Gurley was employed as a second string safety, relieving a suspended D.J. Swearinger in the Missouri game, and got on the field as an extra defensive back in dime packages. Gurley suffered a torn knee ligament in the loss to Florida, and his presence was missed late in the year, as the Gamecocks' struggled mightily in the secondary against Tennessee and Michigan. Despite missing the final third of the season, Gurley earned freshman All-SEC honors.

2012 Stats:
Gurley accumulated 13 tackles in 8 games played.

2013 Outlook:
Gurley is competing for a starting job at the boundary safety position after Brison Williams was moved over from boundary to in order to have an experienced player replacing D.J. Swearinger as the quarterback of the secondary. Word out of fall camp has been that, if the season started tomorrow, it would be "safe to say" that  J.J. "The Safety Formerly Known As Kadetrix" Marcus would get the nod over Gurley, but defensive backs coach Grady Brown says that he's glad the season doesn't start for a few more weeks.

No matter which player is on the field for the first defensive snap of the North Carolina game, this is by no means an all-or-nothing position battle. I'd expect to see both Gurley and Marcus logging significant snaps at safety and as an extra defensive back on obvious passing downs. It's difficult to earn All-SEC accolades as a part-time player

Trivia:
Gurley played his high school ball at Cairo (GA) High, where the school mascot is the Syrupmakers, T.J. and teammate Kaiwan Lews probably have a lot to talk about, sugar-wise.

Possible Todd Ellis play-by-play call:
"Third down from the Georgia 38. Midfield is the line to gain. Murray takes the shotgun snap, looks down field, sees nothing, dumps it off to Todd Gurley and BOOM! T.J. Gurley wasn't fooled for a second, reads swing pass perfectly, and drops the ball carrier for a 3 yard loss. I'll tell you what, Tommy, that was some hot GURLEY ON GURLEY ACTION!"

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