Frontrunners emerge in a few of South Carolina's position battles

Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE

The composition of the starting secondary is becoming more clear, but big questions remain at several high-profile positions.

Running Back

If you strongly believe that a successful team needs one ball carrier who will tote the rock 30+ times a game, then the 2013 Gamecocks are probably going to be frustrating for you. Running backs coach Everette Sands has mentioned multiple times during fall camp that the only football player who has shown an ability to carry the load all by himself while staying fresh and healthy is Adrian Peterson. The Gamecocks have some talented backs, but none of them are Adrian Peterson.

Though the competition is neck-and-neck between Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis, the latter is currently the trendy pick to have a breakout year in the the South Carolina backfield. The Davis buzz is being propelled by the momentum of a 5.3 yards per carry showing in 2012 while Wilds redshirted and is buttressed by Davis' recruiting credentials coming out of high school. But Sands continues to insist that things are neck-and-neck, and doesn't seem to mind that neither Wilds nor Davis has created any separation, except to the extent that he has to decide on somebody to send out for the first play of the season:

It's still a very close race. And Shon [Carson] has thrown himself in the mix. I feel very fortunate that I have three guys that I don't have a second thought about getting them in the game. I'm still looking for that guy to emerge as the first guy that's going to run out there on August 29th.

Spur

This was always a two-man battle between Sharrod Golightly and Jordan Diggs, and linebacker coach Kirk Botkin thinks he has found his man:

I think Golightly has kind of separated himself as the guy. Diggs is come along and doing some OK things, but Golightly is doing some really good things. He's just doing some better things than Diggs right now. Just little things: taking care of his lineman, his stance, his technique, where his eyes are. He's been way more consistent.

Weakside Linebacker

After making a speedy recovery from a torn ACL, Cedrick Cooper was the projected starter at WLB entering fall camp, but a hyperextended elbow has sidelined him for the past week, during which time he has drifted from the fore of his position coach's mind. In Cooper's absence, Botkin has keyed on Marcquis Roberts and true freshman Skai Moore:

[Marquis] had a dang good scrimmage [on Saturday]. Right now if we played, he'd probably be the guy. Skai Moore is doing an outstanding job at the will position. Both of those guys are battling and doing some really good things. Marquis has a little edge because he has a spring under his belt and knocked some rust off. At about 215-220 lbs., he's playing real physical and doing what he needs to be doing and trying to be a leader and doing everything we ask him to.

Though Moore is unlikely to unseat either Cooper or Roberts, Botkin is very impressed with what he's seen out of the freshman from Fort Lauderdale:

Keep your eyes on [Skai] because he's doing a lot of really good things as a freshman. Sometimes those young guys are thinking a little bit and not playing as fast as they could. But he's picking up the playbook and doing a good job understanding not only what he's doing but where his help is. He's picking it up a little better than some of the other freshmen. He's doing a good job right now, flying around the football and doing everything he's being asked to do. It ain't perfect, but it's very, very promising.

Strong Safety

Last week, secondary coach Grady Brown said it was "safe to say" that J.J. Marcus will be the starter at strong safety but did not seem terribly enthusiastic about the fact. To the best of our knowledge, that has not changed.

Defensive Tackle

Kelcy Quarles will obviously be starting at one of the defensive tackle positions, but J.T. Surratt and Gerald Dixon, Jr. are in a tight battle to replace Byron Jerideau at the other. Surratt is listed first on the depth chart and has been practicing with the ones, but defensive line coach Deke Adams insists that it remains an unsettled question:

It's a heated battle right now, but they're both doing a great job, and I look for great things from both of them. We're still two weeks away, and we've got a lot of practices ahead, so there are a lot of things that can happen between now and then.

Kicker

After Wednesday's practice, the characteristically jocular Joe Robinson was in the worst mood I have ever seen him in. When asked separately about who was the frontrunner at the placekicking and longsnapper positions, the second year special teams coordinator proceeded to list every single player on the roster who is listed as a kicker or a longsnapper, heavily implying that he's currently displeased with all of his choices.

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