Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Carolina Preview: Defense

The Chicken's defense looks very formiddable this year, just as it always does on paper at the beginning of the season. Honestly though, I feel like I always coax myself into believing that their D is actually better than an objective observer (Not Dr. Lou) would note. Let's remove the Dawg-colored glasses and take a look at what the Cocks have to offer on the defensive side of the ball.

We'll start with, what I believe will be the strongest unit and work toward the weakest.

SECONDARY
This ranking is solely based on potential, not individual performance from last week (per CFBStats.com). If you don't care to do the link, the Chickens were torched for 337 yards passing and allowed 17 first downs via the pass. Fedora does run a spread at So. Miss, but this is not good for what is supposed to be one of the best units in the conference.

This unit features the very-talented trio of #5 Stephon Gilmore, #3 Akeem Auguste, and # 17 Chris Culliver. Gilmore headlines the group, as he was named Freshman All-American last year and 1st-team Preseason All-SEC this year. Stephon is a jack-of-all-trades for So. Car playing CB, WR, PR, and will also take snaps in the "wildcat". Culliver was a 2nd-team Preseason All-SEC safety this year and has moved down to CB this season. Auguste will handle the duties at free safety and and sophomore DeVonte Holloman will hold down the SS spot. Antonio Allen is in the "Spur" position which is a hybrid SS/LB, which I would interpret as the nickelback, as their base defense is the nickel.

DEFENSIVE LINE
It's pretty standard that the Cocks have a great quartet of defensive linemen. This year, it doesn't look like that will be any different.

#83 Cliff Matthews told the NFL no last year at the behest of Darth Visor and returns as one of the conferences best linemen. Matthews was named 1st-team Preseason All-SEC at SEC Media Days. #91 Ladi Ajiboye is a very talented senior with 32 career starts under his belt. #98 Devin Taylor, who is huge at 6'7 250, and #42 Travian Robertson both have 5 career starts each and look to hold down the DE and DT roles respectively.

They lose Kwame Geathers' brother Clifton at DE and also DT Nathan Pepper. This is a talented, but somewhat unproven group this year at So. Car. There is also not much depth behind the starters, which could be an area of concern. I didn't see a lot of pressure on the QB last week from the DL, but that could be due to the quick nature of passes from the spread So. Miss runs. They were pretty stout as usual against the run, however.

LINEBACKERS
This could be the real bugaboo for South Carolina. Gone is 1st-team All-SEC'er Eric Norwood, their career tackles for loss and sack leader. Also perhaps lost for the season is their most experienced LB, in junior # 16 Shaq Wilson. Wilson severely injured his hamstring early in fall camp and word out of Columbia suggests he may redshirt this year.

It looks as though senior # 45 Rodney Paulk, who was injured last year, will step in in Wilson's place. The depth chart at Gamecock Central looks a little different with #41 Josh Dickerson and #44 Tony Straughter slated to be the starters. Both of these guys are JUCO transfers with 52 tackles and 3 combined starts. According to the participation report from Thursday, these guys got the most snaps. Quin Smith, a sophomore, who had 6 tackles and 1 tackle for loss last year looks to be getting a good bit of action as well.

Here is what the starting lineup looks like this week:
CB#5 Stephon Gilmore
FS #3 Akeem Auguste
CB #17 Chris Culliver
SS #21 DeVonte Holloman
Spur #26 Antonio Allen
MLB #44 Tony Straughter
OLS #41 Josh Dickerson
DE #83 Cliff Matthews
DT #91 Ladi Ajiboye
DT #42 Travian Robertson
DE #98 Devin Taylor

Analysis:
The Lamecocks look to be pretty stout on the perimeter, with a good secondary and are pretty strong on the left side of the line. The soft spots in the middle should be something that we exploit. They will try and take away the receiving threat that our tight ends pose as well with the nickel. I don't see them stacking the box to take away the run, because that isn't the strong part of their game this year. They will lean on the secondary to take away the pass and try to get a good pass rush on an, experienced, yet un-gelled offensive line. I think the play they demonstrated last week will give So. Car some confidence that they can do this. I think Washaun and Caleb will be the most important parts of this weeks game. The o-line also needs to step up their game from last week.

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