South Carolina's defense lost its most reliable piece for 2016 because of an unfortunate and unexpected injury. For new coach Will Muschamp, there are few players on the roster as important as senior linebacker Skai Moore.
Muschamp told reporters at the SEC Spring Meetings on Tuesday that Moore has a herniated disc in his neck that will require surgery. According to Muschamp, Moore suffered the injury during the 2015 season and re-aggravated it during workouts before spring practice. The procedure will demand six months of no contact, but Moore is otherwise expected to have a full recovery.
"He'll be fine. This is not a career-threatening situation," Muschamp said, according to The State. "This is a very common procedure for herniated disc. It's unfortunate that it didn't heal on its own."
Every year that Moore has been suiting up for the Gamecocks, he's finished as the team's leading tackler. In 2013, he was named to the SEC All-Freshman team. Last season, he received second team All-SEC honors (Coaches, AP). For now, the plan is for Moore to redshirt in 2016 and return to the team in 2017 for his final year of eligibility.
"We are disappointed for Skai, but we need to support him right now," Muschamp added. "He will graduate in the spring. It's great he gets to come back and graduate and play his senior year."
The news certainly doesn't help South Carolina's outlook for 2016. Before the news even broke, Las Vegas set South Carolina's over/under win total for the year at 5 wins. While senior linebackers T.J. Holloman and Jonathan Walton have plenty of experience as rotation players, no one can individually replace Moore and his 260 career tackles.