USC spring football’s five best position battles

jkendall@thestate.comApril 11, 2013 

USC's Sharrod Golightly runs through drills during football practice.

C. ALUKA BERRY — caberry@thestate.com

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South Carolina, which will hold its annual Garnet and Black spring game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, has more time to figure things out during preseason practice in the fall, but it never hurts to come out of spring practice on top of the depth chart. Here are five spots where there’s still a decision to be made:

WEAKSIDE LINEBACKER

Cedrick Cooper vs. T.J. Holloman vs. Kelvin Rainey vs. Marcquis Roberts

Converted tight end Rainey has made several eye-catching interceptions this spring but still is working on playing the run more physically. Holloman, who is sharing time at middle linebacker with Kaiwan Lewis this spring because Holloman and Lewis have the most experience, will have a shot at the weakside job in the fall, as will Cooper, who is sitting out this spring with a knee injury. Meanwhile, Roberts has been praised for his physical style and has the edge at the position as spring winds down.

SPUR

Jordan Diggs vs. Sharrod Golightly

Golightly, a junior, is the favorite to stay in the top spot on the depth chart, but Diggs could cut into his playing time. Neither player weighs more than 200 pounds, meaning they will play the position differently than 240-pound DeVonte Holloman did last year. Golightly and Diggs won’t be as close to the line of scrimmage, meaning pass coverage skills will be paramount in this battle.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Gerald Dixon Jr. vs. Phillip Dukes vs. J.T. Surratt

Surratt, a junior, has the most experience and started the spring at the top of the depth chart, but Dixon has made a strong argument for the job in the past month. Center Cody Waldrop called Dixon the toughest matchup on the interior defensive line thanks to his size (6-3, 318 pounds) and savvy. Dukes is a former four-star recruit.

WIDE RECEIVER

Damiere Byrd vs. Shaq Roland

Roland has had plenty of time to catch Byrd on the depth chart at one of the outside receiver positions as Byrd has missed most of spring practice because of a hamstring injury. Roland has looked good at times, and not as good at times, such as in Saturday’s scrimmage when he dropped four passes. Coach Steve Spurrier has praised Roland’s progress and his 6-foot-1 frame and leaping ability will make him tough to keep on the sideline.

THIRD-STRING QUARTERBACK

Brendan Nosovitch vs. Connor Mitch

It is rare that a battle for the third spot at any position gets notice, but this has a lot of bearing on the Gamecocks’ future. Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson will get all the meaningful snaps this year barring injuries, but Nosovitch are Mitch already are competing to see who will be at the front of the line when Shaw and Thompson are gone in two years. Spurrier expects Nosovitch to hold onto the third spot this year due to his experience, but this is still worth watching.

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