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What to Watch for During Spring Practice: Secondary

Brother, can you spare a cornerback?

Senior strong safety Brison Williams (12) will lead the 2014 secondary.
Senior strong safety Brison Williams (12) will lead the 2014 secondary.
Streeter Lecka

South Carolina entered the 2013 season with a decent amount of depth in the secondary, and certainly plenty of experience. The void created by DJ Swearinger's departure was concerning, but with a pair of seasoned cornerbacks and a fleet of field-tested safeties at the team's disposal, there was reason to believe the secondary could mitigate the youth of the linebacking corps. When the dust settled, only Florida had allowed fewer pass yards per game among SEC teams.

Eleven wins later, Vic Hampton declared for the draft and Jimmy Legree completed his eligibility. Then backup cornerback Ahmad Christian announced he was transferring. Then, hey, so did Ronnie Martin. And that's how a thin unit became a dangerously thin unit, leaving us with a SMDH level of returning cornerback depth. Let's have a look!

Rico McWilliams: Received offseason hype as an incoming freshman in 2012 before tearing his ACL early in fall camp. Played in 2013, but was still south of 100% and only ended up tallying a lone assisted tackle in a reserve role. As of today, he is one of your starting cornerbacks.

Ali Groves: The Stone Mountain product who held several SEC offers redshirted last season and suffered a back injury late in the year that required surgery. Groves also missed most of his senior season of high school, which means he's played four football games in the past two years. He is your other starting cornerback.

Jamari Smith: In 2013, the tailback turned cornerback turned tailback turned cornerback made his biggest splash at tailback, scampering for 107 yards against Coastal Carolina. And now he's back to playing defense. He is one of your backup cornerbacks.

Sidney Rhodes: The former walkon earned a scholarship prior to 2013, and has performed admirably in spot duty. He is your other backup cornerback.

We're all optimistic that these four can contribute, but it's not unreasonable to feel uneasy about the quality of their collective resume, which probably includes space-filling bullets like "social media expertise" and "knowledge of Microsoft Office Suite". Luckily, help is on the way in the form of 15 stars' worth of cornerback, several of whom should see the field in 2014. It's within the realm of possibility that one of them may start against Texas A&M. However, none of those players will participate in spring practice, so the aforementioned quartet will have the opportunity to prove that they're more than placeholders.

On the other hand, South Carolina returns its entire two-deep at safety. Senior Brison Williams, who could get some reps at cornerback this spring, has 23 career starts under his belt and a foothold on the starting strong safety role. Former freshman All-SEC teamer TJ Gurley is listed as Williams backup. Gurley, like McWilliams, wasn't quite at full speed last season after suffering a ligament injury in 2012, but should be 100% going into the spring.

One of the more underrated spring positional battles will be at free safety. Senior Kadetrix Marcus—holy smokes, he is a senior, isn't he?—will compete with redshirt sophomore Chaz Elder for the starting role. Elder, who was a top 150 player out of high school, could have the highest upside of any player in the secondary, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him overtake Marcus. Chris Moody and Jasper Sasser are listed at third team strong and free safety, respectively.

In conclusion, the state of our secondary going into spring practice vaguely parallels that of our defensive line. Depth on the interior, but questions aplenty on the outside. It's a good thing we aren't playing any teams that attempt to exploit the edges OH GOD WE PLAY AT AUBURN