If you’re a college football fan, all you’ve heard is “Jadeon Clowney this” and “Jadeveon Clowney” that, and by now you’re probably a little tired of hearing it.
Just imagine how tired you would be of hearing that if you a member of the South Carolina Gamecocks defense. The mainstream media may make it seem like South Carolina is a one-man defense, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Even along the defensive line, Clowney is just one part of what could be one of the top defensive lines in the country.
First there’s senior Chaz Sutton, who plays the other defensive end position opposite Clowney. Sutton is in his first year as a starter after playing behind Devin Taylor and Melvin Ingram early in his career, but he’s been a frequent contributor the past two seasons and has six career sacks.
Sutton is a great pass rusher, and should benefit greatly from all the attention offensive lines will be giving Clowney this season. He could be in line for a breakout season.
On the interior of the line, the Gamecocks have strong players in Kelcy Quarles and J.T. Surratt. Both are big and powerful, and Quarles especially has the ability to make a big impact from the defensive tackle position, entering the season with 66 career tackles over the previous two seasons.
The linebacker corps at South Carolina is a little short on experience, but they are loaded with speed, which is usually a good complement to such a strong defensive front.
The Gamecocks’ secondary may actually be the strength of the defense, even if the defensive line gets all the attention and the accolades. The cornerback tandem of Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree is one of the best in the SEC, and safety Brison Williams is a veteran safety who will have a chance to make plays all over the field as he takes on a larger role after the departure of DeVonte Holloman and D.J. Swearinger.
Despite struggling a bit with their conditioning against the uptempo offense of the North Carolina Tar Heels in their season opener, the Gamecocks’ defense showed what they are capable of, even with Clowney taking frequent breaks to catch his breath.
North Carolina’s offense was held to just 293 yards, nearly 200 yards less than what they averaged last season, a testament to a strong and balanced South Carolina defense.
While Clowney took some criticism after the season opener, the real takeaway should have been the play of the entire defense, which kept a talented and uptempo offense under wraps all night long and helped give the Gamecocks a comfortable win. The defense looks ready for next week’s SEC showdown with the Georgia Bulldogs.