Top 10: #10 - Byron Jerideau

For South Carolina to reach its goals in the 2012 season, 10 players have to step up and have a big year. We begin the top 10 today and will conclude with the #1 player prior to the opening game against Vanderbilt. Today we take a look at the #10 player, defensive tackle Byron Jerideau.

10. Byron Jerideau

Byron Jerideau has been assigned the task of replacing Travian Robertson at tackle, a seventh-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons. Robertson was a key player in 2011 on the interior, recording 49 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks. Robertson played in over 50 games in his Gamecock career and started his final two years. Jerideau will be stepping into the role this season and is expected to earn the first start of his Gamecock career next Thursday against Vanderbilt.

"I've been waiting for it for a long time," Jerideau recently said. "I've been waiting for it for over two years behind Travian and I'm ready."

Jerideau's story of redemption is like no other. Following the 2010-11 season, his first in Columbia, Jerideau was struggling with his weight. Pushing 350 pounds during the offseason, defensive line coach Brad Lawing was worried about his health, let alone his playing career.

"He's dealing with a lot of life issues," Lawing said back in the spring of 2011. "Where he was headed - he was headed to 400 pounds in probably another couple of years. That's not healthy for anybody - not only for football but for his health."

Jerideau slimmed down to 312 pounds last season, but still struggled to get on the playing field. Jerideau played in every game, but in limited minutes. The coaching staff even flirted with the idea of moving him to the offensive side of the ball during the middle of the season and played on both sides of the ball against Mississippi State. In the end it was decided to keep Jerideau on the defensive side of the ball. Jerideau had just seven tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Now headed to the starting line-up, Jerideau has finally reached his goal of starting in the SEC. Now around 316 pounds, Jerideau will be counted on to close up the middle of the field with the help of Kelcy Quarles to allow the defensive ends of Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor to get up the field and get to the quarterback.

If the Gamecock defense wants to be considered one of the nation's elite again this season, it is going to take a team effort and Jerideau will have to play like a top 10 player.


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