Along with Ronald Patrick, Connor Shaw, and Chaz Sutton, Jimmy Legree is one of only four seniors on the 2013 South Carolina Gamecocks roster. Although not one of the most decorated players on the roster, Legree is one of my favorites. Why? He is an overachiever who worked hard, listened to his coaches, got better every season, and ended up being a solid cog in the Gamecocks' defense in 2012 and 2013. South Carolina fans take pride in our coaching staff's ability to find diamonds in the rough who are coachable and then taking those guys and developing them into solid SEC players. Jimmy Legree epitomizes that key aspect of our program. Jimmy Legree was rated a marginal three-star prospect by Rivals and a two-star according to Scout. Yet he turned out to be a multiyear starter for Carolina during a period when the Gamecocks were among the SEC's elite. He's even got an outside shot at a professional career. This is a guy who made the most of his time at Carolina.
After redshirting in 2009 and recording four tackles in mop-up time in 2010, Legree burst onto the scene in the spring 2011 Garnet and Black Game, when he intercepted two passes. There have been plenty of Gamecocks who came out of nowhere during the spring game but failed to ever carve out a prominent place on the depth chart during the regular season; in that same 2011 game, DeAngelo Smith caught multiple TD passes, but he only rarely got significant playing during the regular season. Legree followed his performance up by earning a starting spot at safety during fall camp. After a couple of shaky performances in the first two games of the season that included being called out by Steve Spurrier for celebrating instead of blocking on a Stephon Gilmore fumble return against UGA. After that game, DeVonte Holloman was moved back to safety from spur and Legree was relegated to a backup and special teams role.
Legree didn't let his failure to remain in the starting lineup in 2011 stop him, though. He moved to corner for the 2012 season, where he was able to utilize his cover skills--always his best quality--to better effect. Legree started eight games in 2012, and he was generally effective. He had 44 tackles, six breakups, and three interceptions. Legree made those interceptions count, too, returning one for a touchdown against ECU, setting up a touchdown with a long return against LSU, and picking off a long Devin Gardner pass in the Outback Bowl against Michigan. It was the Georgia game, though, where he might have been most impressive. Lorenzo Ward and his staff drew up an aggressive gameplan that included press man coverage, and Legree played exceptionally well in coverage, locking down his man all night and giving our pass rush more time to rattle Aaron Murray. The combination of good coverage and a stifling pass rush was the story of that game. It was possibly our biggest victory ever, and Legree played a key role.
Whereas Legree had split time late in the 2012 season with Akeem Auguste, in 2013 he came into the season as the unquestioned starter opposite Victor Hampton. Legree had a very solid senior season in which Carolina rarely gave up much yardage along the edge. He added another 55 tackles, showing improved tackling ability and impact on run defense, and another three interceptions. He was again a player who made interceptions that mattered. For one, he reeled in an ill-advised Skyler Morningwheg throw to ice the victory over Florida. His most impressive play of the season, though, might have been when he jumped a slant route on the goal line to end Vandy's comeback bid. Legree had felt out the Vandy QB over the course of the game and made a great gamble and play on the ball to come up with the big INT. Only problem was that he shouldn't have run the ball out of the end zone, but I think we can take it.
Jimmy Legree has made a lot of memorable plays during his career, but if there's one that will stick out at me when I think of this player, it might be that one. Farewell, Jimmy.
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