2006 Redshirt Report: Defense
Casper Brinkley - Brinkley, a 6'3, 260 pound JUCO defensive end transfer from Georgia Military Academy, arrived on campus earlier this summer, and he impressed enough to warrant a spot on the first team defense on day one of fall camp. He has shown no signs of surrendering that position ever since, and if anything, he has further solidified his starting spot in the first two weeks of fall camp. Brinkley has a nice combination of size and athleticism off the edge, and he has the natural pass rushing ability that the Gamecocks lacked from the defensive end spot last season. No one knows how good Brinkley can be just yet, but the Gamecocks are expecting him to play an important role on the defensive front this season.
Jasper Brinkley - Casper's twin brother, Jasper Brinkley, had the luxury of taking part in spring practice with the Gamecocks, and much like his brother, he will be counted on to play an important role in the Gamecock defense this season. Jasper has manned the starting middle linebacker spot since the spring, and he has already drawn comparisons to former South Carolina middle linebacker, Kenneth Harney. Brinkley is a physical, hard-hitting linebacker who excels in run support, but he has legit 4.6 speed and can defend the pass over the middle when necessary. A few of his teammates have referred to him as the "quarterback of the defense," and despite being in his first year at Carolina, he is already viewed by many as a leader of this defense. Much like with his brother Casper, we will not truly know how good Jasper will be until he suits up in a real game situation.
Terrance Campbell - The 6'4, 270 pound defensive end got off to a great start in fall camp and looked like a potential contributor this season, but he has since begun to show signs of his youth. There is no doubt that Campbell is talented, and he has a great frame to grow into, but if at all possible, he could benefit from a redshirt year in the strength program. Considering the Gamecocks depth at defensive end, if a couple of injuries occur, then it is possible that Campbell could be called upon to play this season, but as things stand today, he would benefit greatly from a redshirt year.
Emanuel Cook - Possibly the most highly touted freshman defender heading into fall camp was Emanuel Cook. The 5'11, 210 pound safety got off to somewhat of a slow start, and he appeared to have a bit of a learning curve while making the adjustment from high school linebacker to college safety. However, he has since taken his game to another level and has begun to turn some heads in practice. Cook worked with the second team defense at strong safety for much of the first two weeks of camp, but the coaching staff has recently experimented with him at free safety. No matter which safety spot Cook ultimately plays, he will be counted on to contribute significant snaps this season and could potentially even work his way into a starting spot. Cook brings a physical presence to the defensive backfield, and he is not afraid to hit the opposition. Pound for pound, he is one of the strongest players on the team, and he has already gained the reputation as being one of the team's better tacklers.
Kenrick Ellis - After being billed as one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the country last season coming out of high school, Kenrick Ellis has struggled in fall camp. Ellis reported significantly overweight, and he missed some much needed practice time early in fall camp, while trying to cut down his weight to the coaches standards. At 6'5, 340 pounds, Ellis was able to dominate at the high school level with his sheer size, but while he has all of the tools to be successful in the future, he will need to refine his technique and become a fixture in the weight room before challenging for playing time on the college level.
Captain Munnerlyn - One of the most pleasant surprises of the fall has been the play of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. The 5'9, 175 pound corner is small in stature, but he has displayed superb physicality off the line, exceptional speed, and decent technique for a true freshman. At one point in fall camp, the receivers complained to the coaches that Munnerlyn was being too physical with them, but the coaches just laughed. Coach Spurrier has already praised Munnerlyn on several occasions, and the only question that remains is if he will earn a starting spot or play significant snaps off the bench in 2006. Munnerlyn, who was a track star in high school, is one of the fastest players on the team, and he could also potentially see action as a kickoff return man this season.
Eric Norwood - Another pleasant surprise this fall has been the play of Eric Norwood. The 6'3, 260 pound defensive end is physically mature for his age, and he is one of the best conditioned athletes on the team. Norwood has displayed an excellent first step off the edge, and although he needs to continue working on his technique, he has already locked down a spot on the two deep. Norwood has a nice combination of size and speed off the edge, and he plays equally as well in both passing situations and run support. He will be relied upon to play significant snaps this season, and if he plays up to expectations, he will warrant strong consideration for All-SEC freshman honors.
Rodney Paulk - Linebacker Rodney Paulk took the initiative to join the team early for summer workouts, and that decision has paid off for him. Paulk is currently working at second team stinger linebacker, and he has displayed the reaction, aggressive nature, and tackling ability to contribute as a freshman this season. Much like Norwood, Paulk is physically mature for his age, and his intensity and dedication both on and off the field give him an edge on other newcomers. Paulk needs to continue working on his knowledge of the defense, but he has adjusted surprisingly well to the speed of the college game thus far. Paulk will be counted on to provide quality relief minutes in the linebacker rotation this season, and he appears to have a bright future ahead of him.
Nick Prochak - The Spartanburg (SC) native was recruited as an athlete, and he has practiced at strong safety thus far in fall camp, but he has the frame to easily grow into a linebacker or possibly even a tight end in the future. It's evident that Prochak, who played quarterback in high school, needs a year to adjust to playing defense, but he has shown the physical tools to be successful in the future. Prochak has good size, speed, and quickness, but he needs to work on his reaction, technique, and knowledge of the defense. Once he does, he can be a good player for the Gamecocks.
Joel Reaves - The third JUCO signed on the defensive side of the ball by the South Carolina staff in this past recruiting class was Joel Reaves. The 6'1, 270 pound defensive tackle took part in spring practice, but he generally struggled. However, thus far in fall camp, it appears that he has made some progress in the weight room, and he is currently battling for a spot on the two deep. The coaching staff likes his effort and intensity, but he lacks the size necessary to be a top flight defensive tackle at this level. Nevertheless, he is likely to see some action in a reserve role this season.
Vandaral Shackleford - The 6'1, 220 pound linebacker started out the fall working at the stinger linebacker spot, and after it became evident that he would not contribute this season, he was moved to the MIKE (middle) linebacker position. Shackleford does not possess the athleticism that a few of the other linebackers have, but he is an intelligent player who can read the play as it develops, and he has very little wasted motion. He would greatly benefit from a redshirt year, but with a year in the system and the strength program, he could potentially challenge for playing time next season.
Darian Stewart - One of the most intriguing players on the defense this fall has been Darian Stewart. The 6'0, 210 pound safety has been forced into a difficult position with both Ty Erving and Brandon Isaac being suspended for the first three games of the season. As a result, Stewart has received the majority of the reps with the first team defense at free safety, but he has also recently been experimented at strong safety. Much like Emanuel Cook, no matter which safety spot he plays this season, he will be relied upon to play significant snaps and potentially even start. Stewart possesses good size, solid reaction, and the natural ability to break on the ball. He will not be confused for Ko Simpson anytime soon, but he has performed well thus far in fall camp, and as Coach Spurrier recently alluded to, he may have started this season even if both Ty Erving and Brandon Isaac were available early in the year.
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