Injury ends Brinkley's season

South Carolina senior Jasper Brinkley, one of the nation's top middle linebackers, is out for the season with a knee injury.

The Thomson native tore the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee Saturday early in the Gamecocks' 28-16 loss against No. 2 LSU.

Brinkley will have surgery Wednesday. He said the recovery will take eight weeks.

On the preseason watch lists for the Lombardi and Butkus awards, Brinkley has been projected by several sports Web sites to be selected as high as the first round in the 2008 NFL Draft.

He wasn't thinking of that Monday afternoon. Instead, he said he will apply to the NCAA for a medical redshirt to play in the 2008 season.

Brinkley led the Gamecocks with 107 tackles a year ago, more than twice the total of the team's second-ranked tackler. The 6-foot-2, 262-pounder was picked for The Associated Press' All-Southeastern Conference team a season ago.

"Jasper plays a big role on defense being a leader," senior linebacker and twin brother Casper Brinkley said. "Everybody's down right now, but we're going to be all right."

On LSU's second play from scrimmage, Brinkley tore his LCL, which is on the outside of the knee. He exited the game but returned in the first half.

Brinkley stayed in the contest until the end, though he wasn't at full speed. He finished with three tackles, his lowest total in 17 games at South Carolina.

"My knee hyperextended and with the force it snapped my LCL," Jasper Brinkley said. "I just toughened up. I wanted to play in that game."

In four games this season, Jasper Brinkley recorded 21 tackles with a team-high two interceptions. He picked off Georgia's Matthew Stafford in the final minute to secure South Carolina's 16-12 win over the Bulldogs.

Casper and Jasper Brinkley, who helped Thomson win a state championship in 2002, entered this season looking forward to being teammates one final season. The injury means they likely played their last game together Saturday.

"The positive part is that I think we'll be able to get a medical hardship," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said after Monday's practice. "So we believe he'll be back next year. It's up to the NCAA."

Now Jasper said he will watch the Gamecocks from the sideline for the rest of 2007.

"It's going to be pretty tough," he said. "Whoever's playing my spot, I'm going to try to help him out."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Chris Gay at (706) 823-3645 or chris.gay@augustachronicle.com.

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