Breaking down the depth chart: Defense

South Carolina released its 2012 preseason depth chart when it unveiled the 2012 Media Guide at SEC Media Days. Gamecock Anthem takes that depth chart one step further by giving you a detailed analysis of each position. Today we look at the defense.

Defensive line

DE
98 Devin Taylor 6-8 267 SR-3L Beaufort, S.C.
90 Chaz Sutton 6-5 248 JR-2L Savannah, Ga.
93 Deon Green 6-4 290 FR-RS Winderemere, Fla.
DT
70 Byron Jerideau 6-1 316 SR-2L Green Pond, S.C.
97 J.T. Surratt 6-2 295 SO-SQ Winston-Salem, N.C.
DT
99 Kelcy Quarles 6-4 286 SO-1L Hodges, S.C.
92 Gerald Dixon Jr. 6-3 304 FR-RS Rock Hill, S.C.
52 Phillip Dukes 6-3 306 FR-RS Manning, S.C.
DE
7 Jadeveon Clowney 6-6 256 SO-1L Rock Hill, S.C.
57 Aldrick Fordham 6-4 269 SR-3L Jamestown, S.C.
44 Gerald Dixon 6-2 272 FR-RS Rock Hill, S.C.

My Thoughts: The defense will be built around the ability of Taylor and Clowney to get to the quarterback, but the rest of the defensive line has a chance to be strong too. Quarles could be ready to step into an All-SEC type role and with the talent around him, Jerideau needs to just use his size and strength to eat up blockers. What does the depth end up looking like? Sutton would have started on many past USC teams. Fordham's versatility will help provide depth both inside and outside -- that's a nice luxury with DT depth being a question. Dixon, Jr. has been compared to Nathan Pepper for some time, and if he can live up to that, he could play a lot as a backup. Deon Green may be the wildcard. He's listed as a DE, but has the size to play DT. If he's 100 percent, he could become a big part of the DL depth as the season progresses.

True freshmen in the mix? Darius English is the lone freshman to join the group. While the overall numbers will allow him to redshirt if needed, English should be a strong pass rusher from day-one, and Lorenzo Ward is looking for another edge rusher to allow him to move Clowney inside on passing downs. Could English be that guy? It's certainly possible.

Linebacker

MLB
54 Shaq Wilson 5-11 224 SR-3L Jacksonville, Fla.
OR 47 Reginald Bowens 6-3 254 SR-2L Holly Springs, N.C.
29 Chaun Gresham 6-2 266 JR-1L Auburn, Ga.
34 Mason Harris 6-3 210 FR-RS Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.
WLB
33 Damario Jeffery 6-4 233 SR-3L Columbia, S.C.
24 Quin Smith 6-1 239 SR-3L Lenoir, N.C.
18 Cedrick Cooper 6-2 215 FR-RS Lithonia, Ga.
SPR
21 DeVonte Holloman 6-2 241 SR-3L Charlotte, N.C.
9 Sharrod Golightly 5-10 179 SO-1L Decatur, Ga.

My Thoughts: There's not a real household name in this group, but there's a lot of experience and a lot of depth at the two traditional linebacker spots. The most intriguing thing to see will be whether new LBs coach Kirk Botkins chooses to play Wilson and Bowens at the same position, as listed here, or he decides to start both players as Ellis Johnson did last season. Jeffery is a good player who should excel now that he's finally going to be able to play linebacker. Holloman finally gets to make the full-time move to SPUR and he should excel there. The depth, however, at SPUR isn't as strong as the other two spots.

True freshmen in the mix? There may not be a true freshman on the roster who's more guaranteed to play than Jordan Diggs. With Golightly set to miss the first three games due to a suspension, Diggs will immediately become the backup at SPUR. If he plays well in that opportunity, he could start for years to come as this is Holloman's last season in the Garnet and Black. It seems likely that the two true linebackers in the freshman class will redshirt.

Defensive back

CB
27 Victor Hampton 5-10 197 SO-1L Darlington, S.C.
10 Cadarious Sanders 6-0 189 SO-1L LaGrange, Ga.
SS
12 Brison Williams 5-11 205 SO-1L Warner Robins, Ga.
25 Kadetrix Marcus 6-1 185 SO-SQ Stone Mountain, Ga.
FS
36 D.J. Swearinger 6-0 210 SR-3L Greenwood, S.C.
4 Sheldon Royster 5-11 185 FR-RS Woodbridge, N.J.
CB
3 Akeem Auguste 5-9 188 SR-3L Hollywood, Fla.
15 Jimmy Legree 6-0 189 JR-2L Beaufort, S.C.
1 Ahmad Christian 5-10 189 FR-RS Jacksonville, Fla.

My Thoughts: Auguste returns to action after missing almost all of last season, and if he's 100 percent, the two cornerback spots and free safety spots seem set with Hampton also starting at corner and Swearinger at FS. Is Williams ready to be a starter in the SEC? That might be the biggest question on the entire D as far as starters go. He had a strong spring, though, and Ward seems to like him. Legree seems much more comfortable back at CB, after moving to FS last year, and should provide depth there. Christian has talent and if Sanders is going to make his mark this would be the year to make a move as a backup. They'll need Sheldon Royster and Kadtrix Marcus to take big steps forward as backups at safety.

True freshmen in the mix? It's hard to say which freshmen will play, but it seems certain at least one or two will. Chaz Elder and Rico McWilliams should both gets chances at CB, while anyone who shows he's ready from the safety bunch could play with a need for backups there. Elder may have the best chance to play out of the bunch, but that's more of an educated guess than anything -- he seems to fit the mold at the boundary corner spot and there could be an opening there behind Hampton.

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