The short answer to the question, “how can the South Carolina Gamecocks get better at linebacker next year?” is: They can’t.
Shaq Wilson, Reginald Bowens, Quin Smith and Damario Jeffery will not be back next season
All four of those guys are graduating this year (Garnet and Cocky is counting the SPUR position as a linebacker for the purposes of this series), and with them 201 tackles, and 16.8 tackles per game from 2012 are gone, too.
The short list of guys who will be asked to fill the completely empty shoes of Carolina’s linebacker positions is:
Mason Harris: With three tackles in 2012 he led all backup linebackers at Carolina…
Kaiwan Lewis: He had one tackle this season.
Cedrick Cooper: Also had just one tackle this year.
Those three guys are the only linebackers besides the four mentioned at the top of this post to record a tackle this year for the Gamecocks.
All three are freshman, all three were three-star recruits, and all three had offers from some of the best schools in the nation when they were in high school.
Sophomore Sharod Golightly is a guy who could step in snatch one of those spots up during the Spring. Junior Chaun Gresham and freshman Jordan Diggs are also guys to watch for when the competition heats up in Spring Practice.
The Gamecocks also have four linebackers coming in with their 2013 recruiting class, including four-star prospect Larenz Bryant.
It’ll be almost impossible for all of these younger players to match the productivity of South Carolina’s linebackers this season. Still, next year’s group of LBs is a talented one, and with all the competition for starting spots that will heat up in the coming months, they could come out of the gates a little more battle tested than other groups of linebackers in the SEC.