September 8, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA; East Carolina Pirates quarterback Rio Johnson (7) passes as South Carolina Gamecocks linebacker DeVonte Holloman (21) closes in in the first half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE
Yesterday, we did a stock report on the offense. Today, let's talk about the defense.
Shaq Wilson. Remember how Melvin Ingram came out of nowhere in 2010 and had a good year? And then how Antonio Allen did the same last year? Well, this season, it appears that it's going to be Shaq Wilson who has that kind of season. Wilson was an up-and-coming star in 2009, when he led the Gamecocks in tackles, but after sitting out 2010 with an injury and struggling to regain his form in 2011, he came into this season flying under the radar. Not any longer, though. Wilson has been the most effective of the linebackers so far, with plenty of tackles and two interceptions, including a game-changing interception when Vandy was in the red zone. He's on pace for an All-SEC-type season.
Jadeveon Clowney. The stats haven't been quite what some might have expected, but Clowney has been a disruptive force. He oftentimes occupies two offensive linemen, opening things up for other players, and he is oftentimes held. Yet, against ECU's Air Raid, Clowney still managed to pressure the QB frequently, and he had a role in two bad passes that ended up being interceptions.
On the subject of holding, Lorenzo Ward had this to say today: "That’s something that we’re going to have to deal with," Ward said. "I think the guys are going to tape their jerseys down more than they have in the past. The offensive line will have a harder time trying to grab on something." It's really sad that this is what it's come to.
Jimmy Legree. When Akeem Auguste went down to injury, Legree was forced into the starting lineup at corner. Coming into the first game, I thought this would be one of the key factors for the season. Could Legree step up and play at an SEC level? So far, so good. Legree has proven physical in tackling, he hasn't made many mistakes in coverage, and he showed off some of his ballyhooed ball-hawking skills with the interception against ECU. Granted, it's one thing to do these things against Vandy and ECU, another to do them against UGA or Arkansas, but I'm certainly feeling better about the corner spot opposite Victor Hampton than I did prior to the season. It so happens that Auguste may be back soon, but Legree has played well enough to make me believe that he's going to be given an opportunity to keep his starting spot, or at least to get a lot of playing time.
Byron Jerideau. Another position that I thought was a concern coming into the season was Jerideau's tackle spot alongside Kelcy Quarles. Other than looking gassed against Vandy at times (not surprising for a guy his size), Jerideau hasn't done anything particularly upsetting. However, he's also not done anything to make me feel more comfortable about his role on the defense. That's partially because he didn't play a lot against ECU, with Carolina preferring to go with smaller, more athletic personnel along the defensive line. It'll be interesting to see how Jerideau does in coming games. He's going to be a key cog when we play smash-mouth teams like Georgia and Florida.
DeVonte Holloman. In recent years, spurs like Antonio Allen and Darien Stewart have been huge difference makers in the Gamecocks defense. It's been expected that Holloman would play a similar role this season, but that's yet to be the case. Holloman hasn't gotten in on many plays yet. He's one of the most athletic, talented, and experienced players on this defense, and we need him to play a bigger role.