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December 30, 2010

Campbell Ready For Step-Up Role

ATLANTA -- Karma finally caught up with South Carolina.

The Gamecocks played the whole season knowing that if just one offensive lineman went down, they would be in serious trouble. The depth of the line, caused by injuries and defections during the preseason, was rocked and first-year line coach Shawn Elliott realized he wouldn't have two rotations of linemen - he'd be lucky to have one at season's end.

Yet, the Gamecocks played 13 games with hardly any offensive line injuries. There were the normal bumps and bruises, but nothing serious; the line and tailback Marcus Lattimore produced the school's first 1,000-yard rusher in 11 seasons.

It finally happened before the 14th game.

"I don't anticipate him playing," Elliott said of left guard Garrett Chisolm on Wednesday.

Chisolm has a severely sprained right knee, coach Steve Spurrier saying that there isn't a completely torn ligament but it was serious enough to leave the senior questionable for Friday's Chick-fil-A Bowl. Chisolm tried to practice on Tuesday but re-tweaked the tender knee; on Wednesday, Elliott didn't say Chisolm was definitely out, but labeled Terrence Campbell as starter at left guard with Jarriel King backing up.

"I've had limited depth since I started coaching," Elliott said. "This year was no different. You try to prepare five guys every week. You like to go with seven or eight guys, this year it turned out to be six or five guys."

USC will play the bowl game with six linemen. Kyle Nunn will start at left tackle, Campbell is at left guard, T.J. Johnson is at center, Rokevious Watkins is at right guard and Hutch Eckerson is at right tackle. King will back up left guard and left tackle, but the other backups are starters backing up at other positions, or freshman Ronald Patrick at center.

If there's a silver lining in it, it's that the group only has to stay together for one game. It holds as one for Friday's game, hopefully wins and finishes the year as one of the toughest groups to play at USC in a long, long time.

If there's another silver lining, it's that Campbell has been waiting for this chance.

"I'm ready to go out there and hold them to the best of my ability and give my all out there," Campbell said on Tuesday. "If I have to play somewhere else, I'll be ready to go."

Held back by chronic neck and shoulder issues (he was prone to stingers if playing in extended duty), Campbell played in nine games this year but was mostly on special teams. He started once on the line, during the 38-19 win over Furman in the season's third week, but otherwise rotated in during the later stages of decided games.

Elliott found out about Chisolm and felt bad, especially considering the trying circumstances that Chisolm has battled to become a player. But feeling bad wasn't going to beat Florida State, so he turned to the next guy in line and told him to get in there.

Campbell had been almost expecting the call, considering how far the Gamecocks had come without a major line injury, and immediately responded.

"It don't put us in a problem," Campbell said. "We had six to eight guys all season. We played all of us together all season long. It hasn't been a problem."

Through 13 games, Campbell is correct.

He, Elliott and the rest of the team are hoping it stays that way through the 14th.

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