Sharrod Golightly finds himself in an unfamiliar spot to start spring practice: No. 1 on the depth chart.
The opportunity at hand really hit the redshirt junior from Decatur, Ga., when he lined up at spur with the first-string defense at Tuesday’s first workout.
“It felt weird the first play,” Golightly said. “After that I felt comfortable. I could get used to it.”
Golightly and redshirt freshman Jordan Diggs are battling to see who is No. 1 at the spur position when the 2013 season opens Aug. 29 against North Carolina.
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Both need to step up and be contributors, said Kirk Botkin, who coaches the linebackers and spurs.
“The competition between those two guys will make each of them better,” Botkin said. “Golightly is older and he’s starting right now, but it could change Thursday. We could go back and watch the film tonight and it may switch.”
Golightly served as the backup to DeVonte Holloman in 2012, recording three tackles in eight games. Most of his action in two seasons has come on special teams.
The spur, a hybrid position between safety and linebacker, requires a player who can help in the run game or drop into coverage, especially against a tight end.
It has been a productive spot the last three seasons for South Carolina. Antonio Allen led the team in tackles with 88 in 2011 after being second with 70 in 2010. Holloman was fourth on the team with 57 tackles last season. Each had three interceptions at spur the last two years.
Golightly said he is confident he can bring the same attributes to the position as Allen and Holloman. All three started at USC as safeties.
“I bring quickness, athleticism,” Golightly said. “I can play a good form of man to man. I love playing in the box. I love being active in run support. That’s why they put me at the position.”
Holloman and Allen played most of the snaps at spur in recent years, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a one-player position, Botkin said. Coaches would like to have a two-deep at the two linebacker spots and the spur and be able to rotate them, he said.
A shared role with Diggs would make a big impact, Golightly said.
“I think with me and Jordan together, it would make us much stronger, especially with him developing the way he is,” Golightly said. “This year we could make it more of a dual threat.”
Diggs was signed specifically to play the spur. Class of 2013 signee Mohamed Camara also was recruited for the position.
That makes this spring especially important for Golightly, a veteran who is trying to earn meaningful snaps with the defense.
“It’s a real big spring. I’ve got a lot to prove,” Golightly said. “I’m old here. I feel like I’ve got to step up my leadership role and be more active on the field. This is the year I can really show that I’m ready.”