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July 25, 2011

Third and short: Markett, McKnight, Miles



With preseason football practice starting on Aug. 3, Gamecock Central presents a new series that takes a look at three players per day who have either played in at least one game or appear on the post-spring two-deep depth chart.

MARTY MARKETT, redshirt senior cornerback



Before South Carolina: Markett, an under-the-radar football prospect, signed with South Carolina on a track scholarship.

The measurables: 5-foot-10, 166 pounds

Prior seasons

2009: Walked on to the football team after spending two years on the track and field team, but missed most of the season after breaking his arm. Did not record any official statistics.

2010: Finally healthy, Markett played in 11 games and got his first career start during USC's SEC East-clinching win at Florida. Markett had 12 tackles and one pass breakup for the season as a backup corner, but also played on special teams. His speed and ball-hawking abilities moved him from special teams to a backup corner position, although Markett was credited for outstanding special-teams play against Tennessee.

Impact

One of the fastest players on the team, Markett will be on the field as a special-teamer this year but may find his options to play corner limited. Last season, as the secondary struggled with injuries and inconsistent play, he earned a spot; coming out of this spring, Markett was fourth on the depth chart behind Akeem Auguste, C.C. Whitlock and Martay Mattox. With the boundary corner spot helmed by Stephon Gilmore, unless Markett really leaps ahead during preseason camp, he probably won't be called to play much defense. He has the speed to make up for any lapses in coverage, but many times that's not enough. It seems his greatest contribution this year will be as a gunner on special teams, since he can out-run the coverage and has been known to deliver a lick or two on a ball-carrier.

BYRON MCKNIGHT, redshirt senior defensive end



Before South Carolina: McKnight was rated by Rivals.com as a two-star prospect out of Scotland County (N.C.) High School. Considered a tight end, South Carolina was his only major offer.

The measurables: 6-foot-5, 242 pounds

Prior seasons

2007: Redshirted.

2008: Worked his way into a backup spot and played in all 13 games, recording seven tackles with four for loss. McKnight had a 10-yard sack against NC State in his collegiate debut and also had a sack against Clemson.

2009: Again playing backup with Cliff Matthews ahead of him, McKnight's playing time decreased. He only had one tackle for the season although he played in 10 games, which could have been caused by a move. Seeking more contributions, the coaching staff moved McKnight to tight end in the spring, the position he was thought to be coming out of high school. He practiced there for the session, then moved back to the defensive line in the fall, where he had to re-learn all he had missed during the spring.

2010: McKnight again only had one tackle as he was again a backup to Matthews, but managed to make an impact. Against Arkansas, Stephon Gilmore forced a fumble and McKnight scooped and scored, bringing a bright spot to what was a rather extensive beating from the Razorbacks. He played in 13 games and had two pass breakups.

Impact

It really seems to be a case of horrible timing when looking at McKnight's career, as he's always had to back up players who were simply more talented than him. First it was Matthews, now it's going to be Melvin Ingram, Devin Taylor and/or Jadeveon Clowney. McKnight has the height to play DE, and being rather light, he has good speed for the position, but hasn't been able to stick on the field. He has one year left to try to make it happen, be it due to injury or some kind of hidden level he hasn't yet shown. Never underestimate the impact of a quality backup, but McKnight seemingly will always be in that role instead of a starting one.

KENNY MILES, redshirt junior running back



Before South Carolina: Miles was rated by Rivals.com as a three-star prospect out of Brookwood (Ga.) High School. He was also offered by UCF.

The measurables: 5-foot-10, 184 pounds

Prior seasons

2008: Redshirted.

2009: Miles became the most dependable back the Gamecocks had, leading the squad with 626 yards in 13 games. He started seven games and scored one touchdown, also catching 21 balls for 137 yards. Miles brought a new dimension to the team, being low to the ground and able to run past people, and the future looked extremely bright.

2010: With Marcus Lattimore coming to school and taking over the position, spots were slim for Miles as his time, carries and yardage plummeted. He only had 152 yards over 14 games, also catching 15 yards worth of passes. Miles bided his time until he got a chance - Lattimore sprained his ankle and missed the second half against Kentucky, which also nixed him for the next week's game at Vanderbilt. Miles earned the start, then was shut down for 25 yards on 11 carries; Brian Maddox took over and pulverized the Commodores for 146 yards in a career-best performance. Miles redeemed himself somewhat in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, rushing for 70 yards on 10 carries, but the Gamecocks couldn't get the win.

Impact

There have been more talented players than Miles at USC, but he has become a crowd favorite by uttering a few simple words in the spring. After Jarvis Giles had transferred in the fall, and Miles' season became a lost cause, he was asked if he had ever thought of transferring. Miles declared that he had not, and then said he had signed with USC for a reason, and he was going to honor that commitment. Safe to say that any time he gets the ball from now on, he'll be given a warm round of applause. The question now is, will he get the ball? Lattimore has at least two years of school left, as does Miles. Miles was the backup coming out of the spring, and with Eric Baker coming off a redshirt season, would seem to have the No. 2 spot sewn up. Lattimore was magnificent as a freshman, but did have some injuries; Miles didn't take advantage of one chance but did do it the last time he had the opportunity. Even if healthy, Lattimore will need some rest from some of the 35-to-40-carry games, which is where Miles will get his shot. If he can learn to just side-step the pile and get in open space, good things will happen.

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