Brinkley Excited To Return In 07'

Where would the South Carolina defense have been without linebacker Jasper Brinkley patrolling the middle of the field this season? That is a question that Gamecock fans are happy they don't have to answer. Brinkley was simply the heart and soul of the young Gamecock defense, which despite breaking in ten new starters this season, ranked 22nd in the nation by allowing only 17.3 points per game.

Brinkley, who transferred from Georgia Military to South Carolina in the spring of 2006, quickly adjusted to the SEC level of competition, and on a defense that featured a dozen freshmen and sophomores on the two deep, he brought a much-needed veteran presence into the locker room and onto the field. According to Brinkley, he feels he made a smooth transition in his first year at South Carolina, but with one year of eligibility remaining, he hopes to continue to play an important role in turning the USC program around.

"It was a smooth transition (from GMC to South Carolina) this year. I just wanted to come here and make everybody at Carolina feel like the Gamecocks could do it," said Brinkley. "I know they haven't accomplished a lot over the years, but it's time we turn the program around."

The 6'2, 250 pound Brinkley believes that with USC returning the overwhelming majority of this year's team in 2007, the Gamecocks will learn from this season's mistakes and enter next fall believing that a special season is within their reach.

"After all these (close) games this year, we looked at our talent level returning. The games we lost, it was about mental mistakes," said Brinkley. "We just kept telling each other we can do it, and fortunately at the end of the season we played that Clemson game, and everybody looked each other in the eye, and said, ‘We can do it. We believe.' We live by that creed right now. We believe."

While Brinkley is already excited about what next season could hold for the Gamecocks, he is currently focused on USC's December 29 match up against Houston in the Liberty Bowl, and he believes that a solid bowl performance could serve as a springboard into spring practice and beyond.

"I'm excited about the bowl game. This is my first time being a part of a big time program. I never went to a bowl game like this before, so I'm excited about that," said Brinkley. "I think it'll be a big push and a jump for us (if we can win the bowl game), because of the simple fact that we could go into the spring with something positive. Last year I came in (the spring), and it was negative already. I think it'll be great."

Brinkley, who models his game after Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, was recently named to the A.P. First Team All-SEC squad after totaling 96 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks on the season. When asked if he was surprised by his play this season, Brinkley replied that his blue collar attitude helped him perform at such a high level.

"I was very surprised, but I just put my best on every day, said a prayer before the game, and just went out and performed."

With rumors circulating that he was considering turning pro after this season, Brinkley assured reporters on Monday afternoon that he had not even filed the paperwork to gauge where he could be selected in the upcoming NFL Draft. With Brinkley returning next season, along with twenty out of the twenty-two players on this season's defensive two-deep, the South Carolina defense has a lot to look forward to in the 2007 campaign.

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