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The Final Cockdown: #20, T.J. Gurley

The defensive secondary's elder statesman looks to lead the Gamecocks' attack in 2015

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

T.J. Gurley

5'10'' / 199 lbs
Senior
SPUR
Cairo, GA (Cairo HS)

Recruitment:
Consensus three-star recruit and the nation's 55th-best cornerback in the 2012 class.

Other offers:
Arkansas, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Louisville, Mississippi State, Southern Miss, and Tennessee

College career:
Gurley played in eight games his true freshman season (2012), on special teams and as a backup safety. Earned his first start against Missouri. Suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Florida game while covering a punt. Named to the All-SEC Freshman squad.

Played all 13 games in 2013 despite early concerns stemming from the 2012 injury. Came off the bench in the season-opener vs. UNC and led the team in tackles with nine (seven solo). Added eleven tackles against UGA in his first start of the season the next week. However, his on-field production stalled, and his only other start would come against Arkansas. Finished the year with 30 tackles. Named to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.

Saw playing time in all 13 games last season, starting in 10 contests. Ranked 24th in the SEC with 6.2 tackles per game, and recorded at least five tackles in every game. Again named to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll, and was awarded the Harold White GPA award for the defense.

2014 outlook:
The Most Improved Spur at the 2015 Spring Game, Gurley looks like the prohibitive favorite to be the starter at that position, which will be a shift from the safety slot, where he played his first three years. As the senior member of the Gamecocks' secondary, he will definitely bring experience and versatility to the party. While he's certainly been a very solid and productive player throughout his career, he's flown under the radar for the most part. If the Gamecocks are going to shake off the memories of the lackluster defense of last season, T.J. Gurley is going to have to step up in a big way and take on the spotlight. Coach Jon Hoke and the rest of the staff are trying to shake things up in a big way, and Gurley's shift to the Spur position is a prime example. Given his improvement at the position over the Spring and Summer sessions, maybe the shift will enable Gurley to lead the way for the defense this Fall.

Potpurri:
TJ Gurley hails from Cairo, Georgia. His high school, Cairo High, was recognized by ESPN as the 1986 winner for best school mascot/nickname. Their nickname? the Syrupmakers.

Seriously.

You cannot make this stuff up.