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July 22, 2011

Third and short: Inabinet, Ingram, Jeffery



With preseason football practice starting on Aug. 3, Gamecock Central presents a new series that takes a look at three players per day who have either played in at least one game or appear on the post-spring two-deep depth chart.

WALKER INABINET, redshirt junior long snapper

Before South Carolina: Inabinet walked on to the team after playing at The Hammond School.

The measurables: 5-foot-9, 198 pounds

Prior seasons

2008: Redshirted.

2009: Reserve long snapper behind incumbent C.D. Turner and did not see any game action.

2010: With Turner injured for the Troy game, Inabinet made his collegiate debut. It was his only game of the year.

Impact

Quit giggling and get serious. Long snapper is just as crucial of a role as wide receiver, when it comes down to it. Somebody's got to get the ball to the punter and be able to pop his head up and block. Inabinet is the listed starter at snapper after Turner graduated, and he has two years of eligibility remaining. It's good to see someone that worked hard and knew he was never going to play stick it out for three years and Inabinet should get his chance this year.

MELVIN INGRAM, redshirt senior defensive end

Before South Carolina: Ingram was rated by Rivals.com as a four-star prospect out of Richmond County (N.C.) High School. Considered an outside linebacker, Ingram was also offered by East Carolina, North Carolina and NC State.

The measurables: 6-foot-2, 271 pounds

Prior seasons

2007: Played right away as a freshman linebacker, logging 15 tackles in 12 ames with one sack. Also returned five kicks for an average of 18 yards.

2008: Redshirted after breaking his foot.

2009: Slow to return from the foot injury, Ingram played in all 13 games and had 18 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. It was during 2009 that Ingram gained his reputation as a sack-master, even though he was playing alongside school sack leader Eric Norwood; Ingram moved to defensive end against Florida and made his first career start, collecting three tackles with a half-sack.

2010: Despite only starting one of his 14 games, Ingram led the Gamecocks with nine sacks, tying for the second-highest single-season total in school history and ranking third in the SEC. He also broke up one pass and forced a fumble, giving USC another threat to blitz outside of Cliff Matthews and Devin Taylor. He had two sacks against Alabama, broke his hand against Vanderbilt but still stayed in the game and forced a fumble that became a touchdown against Troy.

Impact

Ingram is regarded as one of the SEC's top up-and-comers, recording sack after sack last year despite not being a starter. He's listed as a starting defensive end on the other side from Taylor, and has begun to receive some preseason recognition. Ingram's size may prevent him from holding on to the DE spot, especially with heralded recruit Jadeveon Clowney waiting in the wings, but Ingram will be on the field somewhere. His best position may be as it was last year -- not on the line, but right behind it, waiting for a block to be picked up so he can charge the quarterback. Ingram won't be out-classed physically, despite the fact that he will give up several inches and pounds to many left tackles, and his speed has always been much more than average for a man of his size. The Gamecocks seem to think Ingram will be their breakout star this season, and as a fifth-year senior, Ingram has this season to set up his future.

ALSHON JEFFERY, junior receiver

Before South Carolina: Jeffery was rated by Rivals.com as a four-star prospect out of Calhoun County High School. He was also offered by Florida, Florida State, Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee and Southern Cal.

The measurables: 6-foot-4, 233 pounds

Prior seasons

2009: Played in all 13 games and started the final seven, after the game that introduced him to America. Against Kentucky, Jeffery caught three touchdowns, one of them a leaping one-handed grab that he bobbled and retained as he fell into the end zone. With Steve Spurrier cracking that it only took them six games to figure out he could play, Jeffery was a mainstay in the lineup and the receiving charts from then on. He ended with 46 catches for 763 yards and six touchdowns, earning freshman All-American and freshman All-SEC honors.

2010: Fully established as one of the most dangerous and gifted players in the country, Jeffery nearly doubled his 2009 total with 1,517 yards on 88 catches with nine touchdowns. One of the three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, Jeffery was also named a first-team All-American and a unanimous selection to the first-team All-SEC squad. On the way to setting school records for single-season catches and yards, Jeffery also led the conference in yards per game. He had eight games of at least 100 yards and always seemed to have another spectacular catch in the bag. His simple 10-yard reception over the middle turned into a breakaway go-ahead touchdown against Tennessee; his sprint down the sideline clinched the Vanderbilt game; and against Alabama, Jeffery added another page to his book. Going up for a catch with his jersey being flagrantly tugged by the defender, Jeffery caught the ball on his outside shoulder with one hand, spun, knocked the defender away and kept running for the score as Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban looked on in disbelief.

Impact

Stephen Garcia's favorite target returns for his junior and likely last season at USC. Jeffery is the kind of receiver coaches dream about -- catches anything thrown his way, has the ability to turn a routine catch into a touchdown sprint and so naturally blessed that trying to teach him anything new is futile. Jeffery simply knows everything there is to know about playing receiver and has been the kind of player who has worked hard to keep himself at the top. Two years after Lane Kiffin's infamous "pumping gas" comment, Jeffery is lining up a beautiful NFL payday at the end of this season, where he will be able to pump gas into a fleet of luxury automobiles if he so desires. But first comes this season. Garcia can relax knowing his best receiver won't shy away from double- or triple-coverages, the player still knowing he can go up and get whatever Garcia sends his way. Jeffery's presence opens the door for USC's offense, as defenses can't just key on Marcus Lattimore since Jeffery can burn them with equal fire. Sure to break at least the record for career yardage (Jeffery is a mere 501 yards from tying Kenny McKinley's mark), he could also challenge for the school career receptions mark (73 catches to tie). Either way, Jeffery will leave USC as one of the greatest players the program has ever had.

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