Consider the message sent.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward announced on Tuesday that sophomore linebacker Jonathan Walton will start Thursday’s season-opener over sophomore Skai Moore, No. 9 South Carolina’s leading tackler a year ago. Moore banged up his shoulder and did not get treated for it, which prompted the switch.
“He has to get treatment,” Ward shrugged. “You don’t go to treatment, you don’t play.”
Ward said Moore will play early. It will be Walton’s first career start. He will be beside middle linebacker T.J. Holloman, who earned his fourth career start and will play above returning starter Kaiwan Lewis.
The secondary remains what Ward and coach Grady Brown projected it would be a week ago – cornerbacks Brison Williams and freshman Al Harris, with strong safety Chris Moody and free safety Chaz Elder.
“I think Rico (McWilliams) and Harris, either one could start,” Ward said. “Coach Brown feels good about both of them. Whether they’re making mistakes or not, Rico’s going to play early. Rico’s earned the right to play, and so has Al.”
3-4 to start?
Ward’s new 3-4 alignment will be used on Thursday, but he doesn’t know if he’ll trot it out on Texas A&M’s first possession. It depends what the offense looks like.
“They’ll dictate it,” Ward said. “It’ll be based off personnel and what they’re doing. We’ll try to get both alignments in early and see which one’s doing the best.”
If the Gamecocks open in the 3-4, freshman Bryson Allen-Williams is poised to start at BOB linebacker.
Ward said he’s prepared to go to either alignment in any situation.
“I’m pretty confident,” he said. “You got to be confident in the young men that you can put on the field. They’re a reflection of you. We’ve got to get lined up in a hurry because they’re going to go fast.”
Carpenter to lead crowd
Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, retired Marine, USC student and Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, will be USC’s first celebrity starter of the season. Carpenter will take the field on Thursday and lead Williams-Brice Stadium in the “Game-Cocks” cheer.
“Out of all the stuff I've been fortunate enough to do, this is the only thing I've been nervous about," Carpenter told USC athletic staffer Brad Muller. "It's not like I have to do anything other than scream into the microphone and let the crowd handle the rest. I love South Carolina, and I just want to do a good job. I'm really excited about it."
Players who did not practice or wore yellow jerseys were: TE K.C. Crosby (right foot), DE Blake McClain (foot), OL Brock Stadnik (knee), DE Devin Washington (hamstring), OL Mike Matulis (left knee), CB Jamari Smith (left foot) and OL Donell Stanley (wrist).
The Gamecocks will hold a walk-through on Wednesday. It is closed to the public.