Continuing a familiar theme of the past few years, South Carolina lost a defensive back to a season-ending injury and is staring at an absence in the depth chart. When Brison Williams went down with a broken arm last week, Jimmy Legree was left as the Gamecocks' only free safety.
"It's a big hole," defensive head Ellis Johnson recently said. "He was really pushing Jimmy and both of them were making each other better. In fact, Brison was making some plays Jimmy can't make quite as consistently. That was a huge blow."
Sharrod Golightly aims to lessen the impact.
"One guy comes down, another has to step right back up," the redshirt freshman said on Monday. "With Brison here or without him, somebody has to step up and do the job, and I think I'm capable."
Battling for playing time at strong safety, where headhunter D.J. Swearinger is firmly entrenched as the starter, Golightly got his chance when Williams was hurt. He switched to free safety and found out that there was hardly any adjustment, scheme-wise; it was more about trying to do what Williams had done so well.
"At safety here, everything's pretty much the same," Golightly said. "Everybody should know everybody's position. It shouldn't be difficult, because everything's synonymous. Both are the last line of defense; pretty much have the same responsibilities."
USC's free safeties are expected to have more pass coverage while the strong safeties play on the boundaries, but the overall duty is not to let any opponent past them. Hit 'em, trip 'em, forearm 'em, whatever, just don't let them past.
It was a problem throughout last year, the defensive backs getting toasted so routinely it seemed like they ought to be working a grill somewhere. Golightly said the secondary has banded together more strongly this year, wanting to put a stop to that.
"I think this year, the DBs, we're more of a family," he said. "When we stick together, we'll do better. I think the camaraderie we have sticks with us all the time. We're shooting for the stars."
Golightly should be right in that vein. A solid prospect from Decatur, Ga., Golightly redshirted last year but has now been in the program for a season.
"It was frustrating, but it was good for me," Golightly said. "I think that year made me a better player. And I think these next two years, I'm going to be an even better player."
He'll get several chances. Williams, as Johnson put it, was going to play and play a lot. Golightly is expected to do the same.
Opportunity is glowing. Golightly isn't blind.
"After redshirting, it's very comfortable, because I have the ability to play both," he said. "Being here for a whole year and having a good spring, I think I have the ability to play both. I think every day's an opportunity.
"Words can't explain; I'm very excited. I can't wait to get out there and show my strengths."
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