Senior cornerback Chris Culliver is expected to miss the rest of the season after injuring his shoulder in Saturday’s 38-24 victory against Tennessee.
“I think it’s that serious,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. “I’ll let the trainers and doctors give you all the details.”
The news is not the way the No. 18 Gamecocks wanted to start this week. Culliver has started 30 of the past 32 games in the defensive backfield for South Carolina, which faces the SEC’s No. 1 passing offense Saturday when No. 17 Arkansas visits Williams-Brice Stadium.
Junior C.C. Whitlock is expected to step into Culliver’s starting role, but the backup job is now wide open. Walk-on Marty Markett, who Spurrier lauded for his hustle on special teams against the Volunteers, will get a look, Spurrier said. Junior Brandan Davis also is an option. Davis has worn a large cast on his right hand for the past several weeks.
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“I think he’s still going to have maybe a little lighter cast,” Spurrier said. “We will see if he can knock some balls down or play with it.”
Safeties Akeem Auguste and D.J. Swearinger also have experience at cornerback. The Gamecocks’ secondary hardly can afford bad news. It hasn’t played well this season even at full strength. South Carolina is last in the SEC in passing defense. Arkansas is second in the nation in passing offense with 360.3 yards per game.
“They are probably going to be licking their chops when they see the tape of our last several games,” Spurrier said.
The injury is a bitter ending to a tough final season for Culliver, a Garner, N.C., native. He was suspended from the Gamecocks’ first game after the NCAA raised questions about how he paid for an insurance policy that protects him against an injury so serious it ends his hopes of playing professional football. An NCAA investigation determined that Culliver paid for the policy with a loan from an unapproved source.
Culliver, who had offseason surgery on his left shoulder that forced him to miss spring practice, has 34 tackles, one sack and one pass breakup this season. He was beaten for three long pass plays by the Volunteers on Saturday.