What You Need To Know About The South Carolina Defense
– Defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson didn’t get much of a pass rush, and the D was just okay by SEC standards, but it was dominant at taking the ball away – leading the conference with 28 – and always seemed able to come through in key moments.
With six starters back, and a whole lot of other good parts to rotate in, at the very least, the USC defense isn’t going to take any sort of a step back. However, four of the top seven and seven of the top 12 tacklers are gone.
– The linebacking corps loses leading tackler Skai Moore, but Bryson Allen-Williams is getting another year after missing most of last year with a shoulder injury. He can play anywhere in the mix, but leader T.J. Brunson is the man in the middle, finishing second on the team with 88 stops. Overall, this is a versatile group that can all pop and can all fill in where needed.
– The pass rush has to be better after coming up with just 26 sacks on the season, but leading sacker D.J. Wonnum is back on one end after making six sacks. The tackles aren’t as bulky as they were last year, with 302-pound Javon Kinlaw a factor and Keir Thomas a tweener who’ll be a dangerous interior factor in the backfield. This group has to be far better to pressure quarterbacks and help the new parts in the secondary.
Safeties Chris Lammons and D.J. Smith are done, but corner Rashad Fenton is back on one side, and there are three okay options to find a good option on the other. Nickel Jamyest Williams – who came through with 38 tackles as a freshman – should rise up at one of the safety jobs.
Biggest Key To The South Carolina Defense
It’s all relative, but a bigger pass rush would be nice. The 26 sacks might have been paltry compared to what the rest of the SEC was able to do, but that’s a lot for a South Carolina defense that spent years without hitting the quarterback enough.
A long way from the days of Jadeveon Clowney and the 43 sacks the 2012 Gamecocks cranked up, the pass rushers haven’t been there over the last few years. Last season, 15 of the sacks were in three games – with seven against Tennessee – but this is a slightly smaller defensive front that should move a bit better.