Cycling through SEC spring depth charts looking for a breakout star in 2015?

South Carolina linebacker Jonathan Walton fits the mold as a relative unknown after making just six starts as a productive sophomore, emerging from the Gamecocks’ ‘most improved linebacker’ during spring drills last March to dependable tackler by season’s end.

RELATED: Jonathan Walton sparks Gamecocks’ defense

One of the program’s toughest players on defense, Walton managed 38 tackles over South Carolina’s final five games, erupting for a career-high 12 at Florida before closing out the season with a couple game-changing plays during the Independence Bowl.

Walton’s 61 total tackles ranked third on the team.

Walton’s role could change a bit during spring ball as the Gamecocks try and utilize his athleticism in pass-rush form under the direction of new co-defensive coordinator Jon Hoke, an assistant with an NFL pedigree who is known to blitz. South Carolina may switch from its 4-2-5 preferred scheme to the traditional 4-3, which would shuffle returning impact guys around on defense.

Spot starter Kaiwan Lewis and situational defender Marquis Roberts have transferred, leaving Walton and Skai Moore along with rising sophomore Bryson Allen-Williams as primary contributors at the inside spot. Larenz Bryant and Jordan Diggs will stay at Spur, unless Hoke alters the Gamecocks’ base defense.

Now weighing in at 241 according to recently updated player bios, Walton has added nearly 15 pounds of muscle during the offseason in hopes of strengthening his reputation as one of the team’s most physical defenders.

He’s not as fluid through the hips in pursuit as Moore, widely-considered South Carolina’s best linebacker, but Walton is an ideal No. 2 who creates an impressive tandem in the middle on what Gamecocks fans hope is a rejuvenated defense.

Coach Steve Spurrier wants to see more fight this season and this vicious tackler has the upside to develop into a much-needed leader on his side of the football.