Gamecocks’ Lorenzo Ward: ‘Faster and more athletic at linebacker’

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Entering preseason camp, South Carolina is a legit national championship contender. But there are two main question marks about Carolina’s defense.

First, who’s going to replace impact safety DJ Swearinger? The mouth of the Gamecocks’ defense was talented, but his leadership helped ultimately take a secondary that lost three starters and help them maintain a strong status quo.

Secondly, the biggest liability on defense revolves around a talented, but inexperienced linebacking corps. How will this position come together? Who’s going to stand out and make impact plays?

Related: See where South Carolina’s linebackers rank for 2013

Carolina loses its top five tackling linebackers from a defense that finished fourth in total and rushing defense.

However, defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward thinks his inexperienced linebacking corps, what most view a liability, can become a strength by season’s end, via Post and Courier.

“I can say we’re very excited about the young guys we’ve got at linebacker,” Ward said. “They’re very athletic and they all can run. We’ll see how they tackle once we put the pads on, but I’m confident they’ll be ready.

“There’s no question we’re going to be faster and more athletic than we were last year,” Ward said. “This is the fastest group we’ve had since I’ve been here. The youth and inexperience are the big question marks. I know these kids can play.”

Sophomore Kaiwan Lewis has all but locked down the middle linebacking spot. Cedrick Cooper leads the group at weak-side linebacker, but an elbow dislocation could pave the way for Marcquis Roberts.

But all eyes are on the Spur position and replacing DeVonte Holloman. Jordan Diggs and Sharrod Golightly, who may have the best last name in the SEC, are the two battling for the job.

Ward knows the youth could affect his play calling if the youngsters are not picking things up quickly.

“We’ve got 20-something practices to get them ready. I’m confident we’ll get there, but it could affect the way I call a game,” Ward said. “I think they’re picking everything up pretty well so far in the first week. They retained what we did during the spring and that was important. I’ve been impressed with them so far.”

Naturally, linebacker is the biggest position question mark on the team. If Ward and the Gamecocks can develop impact players, all other pieces should fall seemingly into place.

Photo Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

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