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December 3, 2013

Sleeper stars of 2013: Sharrod Golightly

With the regular season over and a sparkling 10-2 record in the books, Gamecock Central is counting down the five biggest surprise stars of this past season, players who very few, if any, would have picked to have the kind of big years they did.

Each day this week we'll profile a player leading up to Friday's No. 1. Let's have some fun!

No. 4 Sharrod Golightly

A fourth-year junior at the hybrid spur position, Golightly brought the most experience to a South Carolina linebacking corps sorely in need of it. That experience, however, consisted of just three tackles in 2012 and seven in 2011, mostly on special teams.

That limited playing experience coupled with his height (he's listed at a very generous 5-foot-10) spoke volumes about the confidence coaches had in him before the season started, which is why as fall camp unfolded and he struggled to cover bigger receivers the defensive staff basically threw the entire depth chart at the spur position in hopes of finding an heir to the likes of DeVonte Holloman, Antonio Allen and Darian Stewart, all of whom turned the position into their own NFL ticket.

In the end, neither redshirt freshman Jordan Diggs or true freshman Larenz Bryant - both of whom have the size the coaches want at the position - could get Golightly off the field. Golightly started ever game this season and finished sixth on the team in tackles with 44, including six for a loss and 1.5 sacks (one against Vanderbilt, a half sack against Kentucky).

Golightly's play improved greatly over the course of the season, especially against Mississippi State game when he single-handedly blew up three screen plays and took that play out of the Bulldogs playbook the rest of the year and recovered a fumble he returned 24 yards.

He repeated the fumble recovery and return (23 yards) the following week against Coastal, and by season's end Golightly was no longer a player the coaches were hoping someone would emerge to replace.

Undersized? Yes. Playmaker? Absolutely.



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