Three Surprise Starters on Defense

Gamecock insiders, diehards, and fans had all been waiting for the official depth chart to be released. Who would usher in 2014 for South Carolina? Who would be called upon to make a major statement against a formidable SEC opponent like Texas A&M? Well it finally was posted earlier this week, and a few eyebrows were raised, particularly on defense. Here's three surprise starters for tonight's season opener.

Chris Moody over Kadetrix Marcus
First of all, I'm inclined to blame this decision on the fact that Marcus refuses to take on a "Matrix"-influenced nickname. If he can't be trusted to be cool and pay homage to one of the seminal action-packed science-fiction films of the past 20 years, then how can he be trusted to make the big plays on D? More importantly (and realistically), reports are that Marcus was simply outplayed by Moody in camp. With the Gamecocks eyeing an elusive SEC title and facing one of the toughest schedules in the country, Lorenzo Ward has to go with his best players, even if it means potentially upsetting one of his seniors.

Jonathan Walton over Skai Moore
Turns out coaches really hate it when you don't do what they told you to do. Skai Moore will be learning this lesson the hard way. When told by the coaching staff to receive treatment for his shoulder injury, Moore reportedly decided to skip the appointment. It can be assumed Moore will play at some point during the game, but if there was anybody curious as to whether or not being the leading tackler on the team the previous season could buy you leniency, let that be the answer. On Tuesday, Lorenzo Ward said it plain and simple. “He has to get treatment [...] You don’t go to treatment, you don’t play.” As for Walton's qualifications, this is his first career start, but he'll be alongside the talented T.J. Holloman, who will provide big help on short coverage.

Al Harris Jr. over Rico McWilliams
It might not matter that much in terms of playing time, but on the depth chart, it's official: Harris Jr., the true freshman, will be starting over the sophomore  McWilliams. I wrote about AHJ a couple weeks ago, marking him as one of my freshmen to watch, and just as I expected, he has stepped up and earned his spot in camp. But with regards to playing time, Coach Ward made it clear he's not playing head games with his players and that he intends to give chances to anyone who deserves it. "Whether they’re making mistakes or not, Rico’s going to play early," said Ward. "Rico’s earned the right to play, and so has Al.”