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November 2, 2010Marty Markett was snapping his chinstrap into place when he heard Lorenzo Ward call out to him.
"Coach told me I didn't have to do that no more," Markett grinned.
On Mondays, South Carolina holds its own version of "Monday Night Football." It's a chance for the younger players, mostly guys on the scout team, to scrimmage and get some plays in.
Markett, a special-teams starter through the No. 18 Gamecocks' first eight games, was usually playing on Mondays. Not so this week.
"I was going over there," Markett said, brushing at his white practice jersey (players on the depth chart wear white on defense and garnet on offense; the scout team wears the color of that week's opponent). "Unfortunately, Chris went down, so coach came to me and said, 'I might need you this week.'"
Starting senior cornerback Chris Culliver is out for the season after tearing his right pectoral muscle against Tennessee, meaning Markett is getting his chance. He won't start on Saturday when No. 17 Arkansas comes to town, but will back up C.C. Whitlock at corner with Jimmy Legree at third string.
The Gamecocks need answers in the secondary. They think they've found one in the special-teamer and former track star who earned a game ball with his relentless hustle against Tennessee.
"It really is nothing new, because coach is always telling us backups, 'Be prepared, you never know what will happen.'" Markett said. "I'm just going to be prepared, so if I do get the opportunity, I'll be able to take advantage of it."
Markett, who came over with Bryce Sherman from the track team when he decided to give up a full scholarship to be a football walk-on, is regarded as one of the team's fastest players, but he hasn't played much defense since the spring. He turned heads with three interceptions in two spring scrimmages, but got into some slight academic trouble at the first of the fall and was relegated to scout team.
He's off of it now and ready to contribute. "Marty has shown that he can help this team on special teams, so we'll see what he can do on defense," Ward said.
"I think they'll step up pretty good," said the Gamecocks' other starting corner, Stephon Gilmore. "Both of them are good players, both of them are smart."
Culliver's replacements and the rest of the secondary will have to be plenty good and plenty smart in order to shut down the Razorbacks' passing attack. USC, the SEC's worst defense against the pass, has been getting routinely toasted.
Markett is hoping to able to help improve that. Culliver had sprinter speed, and so does Markett.
He won the 2007 Class AAAA state championship in the 400 meters, plus ran first leg on the champion 4x100 relay team at York Comprehensive High School. With the Gamecocks, he ran on the 4x100 relay team and earned All-American honors.
Markett is also confident his coverage skills haven't had any dropoff since the spring. Speed won't count for much if he's chasing down a receiver who got past him.
"I'm pretty good," he said. "I'm confident in my skills. I believe I can step in and do what coach asks me to do."
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