COLUMBIA - Skai Moore, the linebacker who led South Carolina in tackles and interceptions last year as a true freshman, will not start the season opener against Texas A&M, Gamecocks defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said after practice Tuesday.
"He'll play. He'll play early," Ward said, referring to Thursday night's opener. "Just got to make sure he does what he's supposed to do when you ask him to do something."
Jonathan Walton, a sophomore, will start in Moore's place. Walton played in all 13 games last season, recording eight total tackles. Moore led the Gamecocks in 2013 with 56 total stops and four interceptions, and enters this year as part of a deep linebacking corps which shapes up to be the strength of the defense.
"I think we've got nine guys, if you count the two spurs, who can play," Ward said. "I don't care who starts. You can throw them all in a bag, and I think you'd get really good players from all of them."
Ward said Moore hurt his shoulder some in practice, and didn't go to treatment. "You don't go to treatment, you don't play," the defensive coordinator said. "So you've got to go to treatment."
With the loss of three starters - including No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick Jadeveon Clowney - on the defensive line, the linebackers are poised to play a bigger role for No. 9 South Carolina. Ward reiterated that viewers may see the Gamecocks in a four-linebacker set against the 21st-ranked Aggies, something of a departure from previous years.
"It will be dictated by their personnel," Ward said. "If they're going to spread us out, you probably will."