Third and short: Moore, Nunn, Patrick
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.
D.L. MOORE, redshirt junior receiver
Before South Carolina: D.L. Moore was rated by Rivals.com as a three-star prospect out of Bowling Green (Ky.) High School. He was also offered by Cincinnati, Colorado, Nebraska and Purdue.
The measurables: 6-foot-4, 212 pounds
2009: Was stuck behind Tori Gurley and Alshon Jeffery on the depth chart, but still played in all 13 games and caught seven passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. He caught a season-long 38-yard pass in the Papajohns.com Bowl, a game the Gamecocks lost but one where Moore ended on a good note and primed himself for the next year.
2010: Moore's playing time continued to increase, as he started 12 of 14 games and caught 17 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Still behind Gurley and Jeffery, Moore managed to earn a spot in the starting rotation due to a strong work ethic and excellent blocking abilities. His sealing of a block on an outside defensive back helped key a Marcus Lattimore touchdown run in the SEC East-clinching win at Florida.
With Gurley out of the way, Moore is again listed as a starting receiver as the Gamecocks continue to feature three receiver spots on their depth chart. He's earned it. A player who never complained about lack of playing time but instead kept his nose to the grindstone, Moore's efforts paid off as the coaches began starting him to present a different look. Able to take up the slack if Jeffery is double-covered, Moore can run long or short routes and is an outstanding downfield blocker. He may not ever be a game-breaker but is reliable and always ready to run another player, whether or not he gets his hands on the ball. Every team needs a D.L. Moore.
KYLE NUNN, redshirt senior offensive lineman
Before South Carolina: Kyle Nunn was rated by Rivals.com as a three-star prospect out of Sumter High School. He was also offered by NC State and Virginia Tech.
The measurables: 6-foot-5, 296 pounds
2008: Nunn struggled to get used to the rigors of SEC football and couldn't crack the depth chart, although he did play in each of the final nine games. He was primarily a special-teamer.
2009: Competing with Jarriel King for the left tackle spot, Nunn got into 10 games and started seven of the final nine. Beginning to learn the intricacies of protecting the quarterback at all times, Nunn was good in flashes.
2010: A breakout year for Nunn, he started nine of 14 games and earned the left tackle spot after King was in and out of the lineup with medical issues. Nunn played two games at right tackle but moved back to left for the duration, starting the final five games there and becoming entrenched in the role. He and quarterback Stephen Garcia developed a close kinship on and off the field, which helped Nunn since he knew most of the time where Garcia was going to wind up on the play. Sturdy and solid, Nunn helped anchor a line that was playing so thin that one more injury could have forced defensive linemen to switch over.
Nunn got himself back in good graces after some early mis-steps in his career and is primed to have the best season of his career. Following the tried-and-true approach of sitting out a season to get bigger and stronger for life in the SEC trenches, Nunn is in the best physical shape of his life and should be the unquestioned starter at left tackle. By trimming some fat and turning some more into muscle, Nunn should be ready for the entire season and shouldn't be challenged, although coach Shawn Elliott will certainly be pushing buttons to keep Nunn at maximum efficiency. Sacks have been a problem at USC, but improved last year; Nunn will be the primary person to try and keep that trend going.
RONALD PATRICK, sophomore offensive lineman
Before South Carolina: Ronald Patrick was rated by Rivals.com as a three-star prospect out of Cocoa (Fla.) High School. He was also offered by East Carolina, Florida State, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico and Western Kentucky.
The measurables: 6-foot-1, 295 pounds
2010: Thought to be in line for a redshirt, Patrick was summoned early in the season, playing against Southern Miss as the Gamecocks were in need of linemen. He also played sparingly in the Arkansas and Troy games, which kept the redshirt off.
Some have wondered if it was really a wise decision to not keep the redshirt on Patrick, especially since the Arkansas and Troy games were already well-decided when he entered each game. This might be the year to correct that. Patrick missed most of the spring after a scary medical ailment - he had to undergo surgery to remove an abscess behind his eye. As such, and because he played as a backup center last year instead of at his natural guard position, he was listed as the third-string left guard after spring practice, behind A.J. Cann and Kenny Davis. Cann was redshirted to get him stronger, and should play a lot after being the highest-ranking prospect of USC's offensive line class two years ago. If Patrick can't at least crack the two-deep, it might be wise to sit him down for the year, trade his first year of hardly playing for a second year of redshirting, and then re-start the process in 2012. That worked pretty well for Hutch Eckerson.
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