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April 2, 2003

Besides learning a new defensive scheme, South Carolina is using its spring practice sessions to get healthy in the linebacker corps.

Returning starters Lance Laury and Jeremiah Garrison are battling injuries this spring. Laury will miss the remainder of spring practice after having knee surgery on April 1 and Garrison is trying to make up for lost time due to a torn muscle in his chest.

Because of those injuries, the Gamecocks depth will be tested and developed, simultaneously, during spring drills. As a result, an opportunity for more players to get a chance to compete for positions and playing time has been created. Factor in the switch from a 4-2-5 defensive alignment to a 4-3 scheme and there is a lot of work to be done for USC over its 15 practices this spring.

“The linebackers have a lot on their plate this spring with learning the new scheme,” said defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Chris Cosh. “There are a variety of different looks and other things that they will need to adjust to.”

Ricardo Hurley and Rod Thomas are two players who could benefit from the increase in reps. Hurley appeared in 10 games last season as a freshman and looks to build upon his rookie performance. Thomas, a senior, is rebounding from an ankle injury that limited his playing time in 2002.

A pair of former junior college players will also look to factor into the mix. Darel Slay is a senior who appeared in 11 games last season after transferring to USC. Marcus Lawrence is getting his first experience in the garnet and black after enrolling in January as a transfer from Butler County Community College.

“Ricardo Hurley is really establishing himself at linebacker,” said head coach Lou Holtz. “Darel Slay and Rod Thomas are in a good battle and Marcus Lawrence is really having a good spring.”

Sophomores Kevin Caldwell and Orus Lambert are players who have limited playing experience but are also vying for positions and playing time.

“We are having a lot of good competition at all positions this spring,” said Cosh. “Slay and Thomas are competing at the ‘Sam’ position, Lawrence and Lambert at ‘Mike’, and Hurley and Caldwell at the ‘Will’ slot.”

Hurley, Thomas and Slay have all impressed coaches this spring and their standout performances have included a consistent demonstration of knowledge and execution of the new defense.

“We are adjusting well to the new scheme,” said Hurley. “The guys are picking things up pretty fast. We are getting used to the system and getting to know the defense better. Everyone stepped it up and had a good first scrimmage last Saturday.”

Hurley, in particular, is a talented young player who has the potential to emerge as one of the SEC’s better linebackers in 2003. The Greenwood, S.C., native is coming off a freshman campaign in which he recorded 20 tackles, including 13 solos, and one pass break up.

“Ricardo Hurley continues to become more familiar with the defense and more confident in his own play,” said Cosh. “He is a high-energy player and changes the mood of the defense, particularly the linebackers.”

The Linebacker Roster
10 Darel Slay, 6-4, 260, Sr., Brunswick, Ga. (Brunsick/Holmes, Miss., CC)
33 Jeremiah Garrison, 6-1, 233, Sr., Belton, S.C. (Belton-Honea Path)
34 Rod Thomas, 6-1, 245, Sr., DeLand, Fla. (DeLand)
42 Ricardo Hurley, 6-3, 233, So., Greenwood, S.C. (Greenwood)
44 Marcus Lawrence, 6-3, 236, Jr., Aiken, S.C. (Silver Bluff/Butler County CC)
45 Kevin Caldwell, 6-1, 203, So., Cornelius, N.C. (Zebulon B. Vance)
48 Lance Laury, 6-2, 231, So., Hopkins, S.C. (Richland)
50 Steven Kennedy, 6-0, 235, Sr., Decatur, Ga. (Redan)
51 Orus Lambert, 6-2, 240, So., Jacksonville, Fla. (Mandarin)
53 Jeff Mullis, 6-0, 220, Sr., Hilton Head Island, S.C. (Hilton Head)