Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has big plans for his linebackers, and in watching the Gamecocks practice this spring, it's obvious they're going to get their best athletes on the field.
"It could be a mixture of 4-3 and 3-4 with those linebackers stunting around and coming from a lot of different directions," coach Steve Spurrier said. "That may be good for us because our young linebackers are pretty good players.
"We'll be a little different defensively, and if we have to get pressure with linebackers, we'll do that instead of just Clowney. Right now, some of these other rushers aren't close to what he was able to do, but they're coming."
This group of linebackers, led by budding star Skai Moore, has a chance to be as good as the Gamecocks have put on the field under Spurrier. They're fast, versatile and stout enough to hold up in the run game. Ward wants Moore to continue bulking up to hold up physically, but he's a ball magnet from his weakside spot.
Moore isn't the only linebacker capable of causing problems, either. Marcquis Roberts, after two injury-filled seasons, looks like a natural at middle linebacker, which is the deepest unit on defense with Kaiwan Lewis and T.J. Holloman also returning.
Up front, while there might not be a Clowney, veteran tackle J.T. Surratt is vastly underrated, and both the Dixon brothers (end Gerald Dixon and tackle Gerald Dixon Jr.) look like they could be poised for breakout seasons.
"We're going to show some different things, and we still have a lot of people who are going to step up and make plays," Surratt said. "Even though we've lost a lot of talent, we're not going to drop off and will be just as good, if not better, than we were last year."
STANFORD, Calif. -- When Stanford needed to replace tailback Stepfan Taylor a year ago, Cardinal coach David Shaw promised a rotation of several backs. Once the season began, however, senior Tyler Gaffney refused to let any other backs in the huddle. Gaffney rushed for 1,709 yards and 21 touchdowns on 330 carries, the second-most in Stanford history.
He is gone now, drafted by Carolina in the sixth round, and on the topic of replacing Gaffney, Shaw is trying to keep a straight face.
"I'll say the same thing I said last year," Shaw said with a smile, "which ended up not being true. I think we've got a good group. We've got a good committee."
But this time, he appears to mean it. The Stanford backfield is filled with upperclassmen whose potential has yet to be realized. Redshirt junior Remound Wright had been the favorite to replace Gaffney, but Shaw suspended Wright for disciplinary reasons and he missed the last two weeks of spring practice.