Scanning The Defensive Linemen

The Gamecocks have to return to playing sound defense if they hope to improve upon their 2003 fortunes. Some of the more important aspects include stuffing the run, pressuring opposing quarterbacks and limiting big third down gains. Does South Carolina have the talent to make it happen? ...

Take heart Gamecock fans. If you have worried after reading some of our other very honest, very fair Scanning Position Reports ... now is the time to rejoice.

There is no better PAIR of defensive ends in the conference. Moe Thompson and George Gause may be one of the finest PAIRS of defensive ends in the country. No knocks on Moe. He plays the game the way it is supposed to be played. Moe's motor is gunning full speed sixty minutes every Saturday. Gause, on the other hand, has had his ups and downs but is set to have his finest campaign to date as a senior. We can tell you this - Gause has been bothered by uncertainty. (A past plague on this team in more than one position.) Remember, Gause has been used as a right side defensive end, a left side defensive end and a linebacker. This season he will be required to worry about one position all season long and it should pay off in increased sacks and more pressures.

Backing up Gause and Thompson will be James Scott, Jason Capers, Kevin Mainord and possibly Matt Raysor if he makes a qualifying score on his final attempt which we believe he will. However, he will be behind other summer practitioners and that will delay his contribution date.

Understand that defensive linemen, especially very talented defensive linemen, are very capable of contributing as true freshmen.

James Scott may be the secret weapon of the bunch. He has excellent speed, which is expected for his smaller size. He is hard-nosed and big-hearted and set for a major senior season as a role player who will contribute. Capers can go down or up but expect to see him used more in the defensive end slot until Mainord and possibly Raysor are comfortable in their roles as leg savers and specialty players.

Overall, the defensive end position is in better shape than in any other time in the history of Gamecock football. Keeping Gause and Thompson healthy will be key. They must have capable talent able to spell them in key situations once they are winded and in need of a breather. (Injuries happen frequently to tired and overworked players.) Capers and Scott will provide the extra legs. Mainord, and hopefully Raysor, will be the icing on the cake. Jamon Meredith is a possibility at Defensive End as well, although we do expect him to begin his career as a Tight End. At any rate this group has a lot of potential. Their mission will be to put more pressure on quarterbacks and to seal the ends and prevent the rambling sweeps and student body pulls. With Rick Minter's philosophy of keeping things simple - and with Jappy Oliver coaching the entire defensive line, we will see all the guys on the same page and in the same film room. This will make their mission this season entirely "doable".

On the interior line, again, it is the finest, most talented, deepest group of Gamecocks ever to take the field. It all begins with Darrell Shropshire in the middle. Shrop is the prototypical SEC defensive tackle. He's big, quick and intense. He was overworked last year and suffered hobbling injuries because of it. But new Defensive Coordinator Rick Minter has a two-fold remedy for the injuries. First of all, he will go to the 4-3 by putting another tackle to Shrop's side. Secondly, he will platoon his talent and rest his studs. Freddy Saint Preux will man the slot to Shropshire's side and he has the body and the experience to have an impact on this defensive line. Expect Freddy to have a breakout season.

Backing up Shrop and Freddy will be a stable of studs the likes of which Gamecock fans have never experienced before. Eric Stroman's foot has healed and he is expected to contribute major minutes this season. Preston Thorne could start for a lot of teams around the league and beyond. Thorne tells us that his knee has healed and he is ready to go full speed once again. Chris Tucker is good for a few snaps minimum and that is all he will be asked to contribute ... as strictly a leg saver for the starters. Charles Silas has the size and the ability - whether or not he is a big time player is yet to be determined. However, word is he has potential and the coaches are anxious to see him under the lights. Silas may well be one of two players asked to do double duty as both a defensive end and defensive tackle. Jason Capers is the other. Stanley Doughty is the one everybody is waiting to see in action. Already one of the three strongest overall players on the team, he reminds us of a bigger stronger Cleveland Pinckney or Langston Moore. He gets down low and he digs. He is the hole plugger and he will get his chance to shine this season in Minter's system. Ducky is excited. Newbie Marque Hall is another player that fans are looking forward to seeing in action. Rightfully so. Hall is one of those rare players whose ability may actually exceed the hype. He will play this season as a true freshman.

Last season the Gamecocks lost three games to ranked teams by a total of eight points. Had the defensive line defended better in any or all of those three games ... it may not have been close. With that in mind, remember that Shropshire, Saint Preux and Silas were all JuCo transfers last season. Silas redshirted. Shropshire started every game and was asked to play far too many minutes. Saint Preux, only a sophomore, struggled for meaningful minutes while attempting to learn a very complicated system ... too complicated by most accounts.

This season, all of the suffering done last year pays off.

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