Midway through the 2013 college football season, it appears the injury bug has hit the Gamecocks as they hit a critical stretch in SEC play.
South Carolina started a three-game road stretch last week against Arkansas, and while they demolished the Razorbacks 52-7, they left the game with a few key injuries that may not be available for this weekend's game against Tennessee.
Starting offensive lineman Ronald Patrick(ankle sprain), wide receiver Bruce Ellington(ankle), starting safety Chaz Elder(concussion), defensive tackle JT Surratt(ankle) and linebacker Skai Moore(concussion) all suffered injuries last week against the Razorbacks to add to the growing list of other players who have suffered injuries in previous weeks like running back Brandon Wilds and offensive lineman Cody Waldrop.
The Gamecocks have yet to see Cann, Ellington or Elder on the practice fields this week. Moore has returned to practice in a limited capacity but hasn't been cleared for full contact.
As for Patrick, offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said he was "getting better." Elliott added, "He got out of his cast this morning. I think it's feeling pretty decent, so we're still going to wait and see."
When Patrick went out, freshman Na'Ty Rodgers stepped in and played well for the Gamecocks in his spot. With Rodgers playing, this effectively ended the Gamecocks chances of a redshirt year for him this season but South Carolina obviously prepared him to play this year. He's a physical player who was ready to play coming in from high school, which isn't the norm for most high school offensive lineman, so it was a good thing Rodgers was ready to play. He's listed as the backup to Patrick at right guard but with Patrick's availability in question, Rodgers could start for South Carolina this weekend.
Ellington has played extremely well this season, but a good thing for South Carolina is so have the rest of the receiving corps. If he's unable to play this weekend, South Carolina will look to other receivers like Nick Jones, Damiere Byrd and Shamier Jeffery, who stepped in with five receptions last weekend for South Carolina.
Chaz Elder moved into the starting lineup last week after a solid performance against Kentucky and added four tackles in his first career start. With his abilities starting to show, he was destined to become a threat in the defensive lineup. This concussion comes at a bad time for him but South Carolina will likely look to safety TJ Gurley to fill Elder's spot in the starting lineup if he isn't cleared from his concussion.
Freshman Skai Moore was working towards more and more playing time but his concussion at the end of the game against Arkansas has kept him out of practice this week. He was pushing for a starting role over Marcquis Roberts at weakside linebacker but he may be forced to miss this weekend's game. If he does, look for Cedrick Cooper to move up to the backup spot and get a chance at a larger role this weekend.
Defensive tackle JT Surratt has really grown into a solid player the last few weeks for South Carolina but his injury will open the door for Gerald Dixon Jr. to get more playing time on Saturday.
All of these injuries come at a critical time for South Carolina, but it appears that none are too serious and should allow most of the players to return in a mere week or two, if not sooner. The Gamecocks have built depth in recent years so the holes vacated by these injured players will be filled by someone who is just as talented behind them.
Traveling to Knoxville is always a tough task for any team but the Gamecocks won't be intimidated whether these players are healthy or not.
Let's just hope this injury bug doesn't become anything too serious.