Josh Kendall

Exactly how banged up are the Gamecocks headed into Clemson game?

South Carolina’s defense may finally be reaching the limits of its “Next Man Up” mantra.

The Gamecocks take pride in not using injuries as an excuse, but after Saturday’s 49-9 win over Chattanooga, it’s more of a reality than an excuse.

“We are really thin right now,” linebacker T.J. Brunson said. “It plays a big part with how our defense plays with the trust levels and everything because you know you are in there with guys who haven’t played a lot.”

South Carolina got thinner Saturday. Defensive back Jaycee Horn started the game at safety but left after the first play due to an ankle injury and did not return.

“Jaycee’s fine,” head coach Will Muschamp said after the game. “It’s not a high ankle sprain. They think he’s going to be OK. They thought he might be able to return to the game, but he had a hard time pressing off.”

Starting defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw left the Chattanooga game due to a hip injury.

“I was going to hold him,” Muschamp said. “He came to me and said he wanted to give it a shot. I think he’s going to be fine. It’s the wear and tear of the season, and that’s kind of where we are right now.”

The Gamecocks (6-4) will need to be as close to full strength as possible against No. 2 Clemson (11-0) next week.

Defensive end D.J. Wonnum started the Chattanooga game but didn’t play after the first series because of the ankle injury that he suffered in the first game of the season.

“He’s been really struggling with that,” Muschamp said.

Starting safety Steven Montac didn’t play against the Mocs due to nagging shoulder and groin injuries that have bothered him for a month. Running backs Rico Dowdle (ankle) and Ty’Son Williams (hand) also were held out Saturday.

Muschamp did not make any definitive statements about which injured players would be available against the Tigers.

“We are going to see who’s up,” he said.