Norwood believes 'D' will rebound against UGA

Defensive end Eric Norwood, from Acworth, Ga., will be making his first trip back to the Peach State to play against the Georgia Bulldogs this weekend. Norwood was disappointed by the defensive play in South Carolina's season opener, but he vows the defense will step up when it goes between the hedges. Read inside for Norwood's thoughts on this weekend's crucial SEC matchup and much more.

One year ago, Norwood was an anonymous freshman on an unknown defensive unit. He made just one tackle in the season opener against Mississippi State, but he had five stops the next week against Georgia, and soon became a household name. He would go on to share the team lead for sacks, with 7, and be named to multiple Freshman All-American teams.

This year, Norwood finds himself the old man at a position dominated by true freshmen like Clifton Geathers, Cliff Matthews, and Travian Robertson. He is being asked to do more than just rush the passer, his primary responsibility last season. Norwood has to be able to play the run as well as he plays against the pass if he wants to stay on the field.

Adding to his responsibilities, he was asked to play linebacker when Carolina went to a 3-4 defense against Louisiana-Lafayette. The position is the same, "Bandit" in Gamecock terminology, whether Norwood puts his hand down as a rush end or steps back like a linebacker. He likes being able to play in space, but he seemed puzzled that so much attention was given to whether he puts his hand on the ground before the ball is snapped.

"I like playing in space, and I think I do good playing in space and making plays," he said. "It's a mix of both [defensive end and linebacker]. I love it. The 3-4 defense allows you to let loose. I get to come off the edge, I get to drop back, sometimes I have a two-way go, where I can go in or out and don't have to worry about contain. That helps a lot."

Norwood said the 3-4 is not much adjustment for him, but that he does have to think more about pass drops and pay more attention to the angles he takes on tackles. Pass coverage was not a problem against ULL, who passed for just 63 yards. The problem came in the rushing game, where the lightly regarded Ragin' Cajuns ran for 252 yards.

"We've got a long way to go before next week," Norwood said following the game. "We'll improve a lot from Monday to Saturday. We'll have to step it up a lot. [Georgia's] not an option team like [Louisiana-Lafayette], but they do run the ball. These last couple years they ran pretty well on us, so we're going to step it up this year."

Sophomore defensive end Eric Norwood, who tied for the team lead in sacks last season, is looking to take his game to the next level this fall.

Norwood also said that he agreed with Steve Spurrier's observation that maybe the close game was a good thing for the Gamecocks, because it would keep players from getting overconfident.

"I agree with it," he said. "Some guys' egos get high and think we're the best defense in the world. We know we can be, but we're not right now. We should have played better, but we got the win. We've got to improve on our fundamentals... our attacking and executing a lot more."

Norwood was careful not to take anything away form ULL. He mentioned several times how well their skill position players executed the option attack.

"They had pretty good skill players," he said. "The quarterback is pretty good. He was better than most people believe he is."

That being said, Norwood made it very clear that he expects to see a much more powerful attack from Georgia, so a similar defensive effort in Athens will not cut it.

"They're not going to see that from us again," he proclaimed. "We're going to perform better. We're going to get better every week. We all know that [Georgia is] a stepping stone to where we want to be at in December."

Even though he went to high school in Georgia, Norwood was not a Bulldog fan. Norwood grew up in Texas, and actually committed to Oklahoma State before switching to the Gamecocks. He attended camps in Athens and was recruited there, though he was never offered a scholarship. In his laid back way, Norwood dismissed any speculation he might have some extra motivation for the Bulldogs.

"I knew who they were, and I watched them play, but I didn't start loving the Bulldogs."

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