The collective facepalm from South Carolina’s fan base was audible as the news began to spread.
Once projected starting linebacker Cedrick Cooper walked down the street toward the back gate of the Proving Grounds, left arm encased in a sling with a towel covering his hand, the wondering began.
Was this a serious injury to a spot that can least afford it? On the fourth day of preseason practice?
No, from what position coach Kirk Botkin said. He said it was just a hyperextended elbow, and Cooper would miss two to three days. The sighs of relief were just as audible, although it was still concerning.
The Gamecocks’ linebackers aren’t getting any older.
“We got some young guys that need reps and the next guy’s got to be able to step up,” Botkin said. “You never know when your number is going to be called to step in and make a play and get in there and perform.”
Botkin’s group is young, with three sophomores and two redshirt freshmen listed on the preseason depth chart. He already lost one redshirt freshman when Kelvin Rainey went back to tight end.
That left Cooper, then sophomores Kaiwan Lewis and Marcquis Roberts, who has sat out two entire seasons with injuries. Then there’s redshirt freshman T.J. Holloman and true freshmen Larenz Bryant, David Johnson, Skai Moore and Jonathan Walton.
“We’ll watch film tonight and tomorrow and evaluate those guys and see what we need to do to shuffle them,” Botkin said.
Graduate assistant Shaq Wilson talked about how glad he is to be back at USC, after a five-year tenure and a brief tryout with the NFL. The plan was to get back in coaching, a spot where Wilson wants to be for a long time, even if it is with a new ’do.
Wilson is minus the flood of dreadlocks that covered his nameplate last year. He got a haircut when he was hired.
“That was my mom’s decision,” Wilson said. “I told her a long time ago, my junior year, if I ever make it in the pros, I was going to eventually cut my hair. When I came here, I had a haircut. I didn’t start growing my dreads until after the Clemson game my freshman year. I cut them right before my daughter was born in December of 2008.”
Patrick Fish continues to work with the first team as holder, as he also tries to win the punter job (Tyler Hull is the expected starter).
The most distinctive name on the roster, also drawing attention to the flowing red locks and beard that have him resembling Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose, Fish is looking forward to getting on the field, at whatever position he can.
“I believe there are a couple of other guys who are holding as well,” Fish said. “But I’m working with the ones right now. Hopefully I can stay there.”
This is why he chops
Kyle Fleetwood, who has moved from strong safety to spur, displayed the tattoo montage on his upper right arm, capped by the Atlanta Braves’ screaming-head logo, above the Atlanta skyline, with the 1996 Olympic rings thrown in.
There wasn’t a reason not to show it off – the Braves won their 11th straight game on Monday.
I know you
Former quarterback Blake Mitchell and receiver Moe Brown attended practice.
Jadeveon Clowney returned to practice after sitting out on Sunday with a tweaked knee. Cody Gibson (sprained right knee) and Cooper (hyperextended left elbow) joined receiver Jody Fuller (shoulder) on the sidelines.
The Gamecocks will practice again at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday. It is closed to the public.
Video: Kirk Botkin
Video: Deke Adams