The Lindsey Impact
After a long and strenuous process that included appeals to the University and then to the NCAA, senior defensive end Jordin Lindsey received word on Friday morning that he had fallen just short of the necessary GPA to be academically eligible this fall. The 6'4", 265 pound Lindsey, who logged 37 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 1 sack while starting six games a year ago, was expected to be the veteran presence in USC's otherwise youth-filled defensive end rotation this fall, but now the Gamecocks will have to adjust accordingly.
When Lindsey sat out the season opener against Louisiana Lafayette, still awaiting word on his eligibility at that time, the Gamecocks featured four underclassmen defensive ends on the two-deep. While the true freshman trio of Travian Robertson, Cliff Matthews and Clifton Geathers certainly have the potential to develop into outstanding linemen, they are better suited to play in pass rushing situations at this point in their careers, which showed as they struggled in playing their assignments against ULL's unorthodox zone-read option attack.
Thus, senior journeyman Ryan Brown, who has played linebacker, defensive end and even had a stint at fullback in the spring, could be given the opportunity to start opposite sophomore Eric Norwood at defensive end. The 6'0", 256 pound Brown, who started eight games last season at defensive end, does not possess the natural pass rushing skills that the highly touted freshmen ends have, but he is an intelligent, hard working player that has been through the rigors of SEC play before and is efficient at playing against the run.
Brown is currently battling with Robertson, the most advanced of the freshman trio, for the starting spot. However, the Gamecocks have a couple of other options that could be used in certain situations as well. Senior linebacker Casper Brinkley, who started all thirteen games at defensive end last season before moving to weakside linebacker in the spring, could still play with his hand down on occasion, as he did at times in the season opener. Brinkley racked up 44 tackles and tied for the team lead with 7 sacks in 2006, warranting pre-season third team All-SEC honors as a defensive end heading into this season.
Another option that Defensive Coordinator Tyrone Nix could use this season includes sliding junior defensive tackle Nathan Pepper, who possesses great athleticism to go with his 6'1", 290 pound frame, over to defensive end in short yardage situations. Pepper was arguably USC's top interior defensive lineman last season, totaling 25 tackles, 5 tackles for loss and 1 sack while starting twelve games.
While the loss of Lindsey is not ideal, the Gamecocks have the depth and versatility to help fill the void he left at defensive end. The first year trio of Robertson, Matthews and Geathers will also gain valuable experience in Lindsey's absence this fall, which will likely pay dividends down the road.
The Lindsey twins will have to wait until the 2008 season to reunite on the football field.
As for Dustin Lindsey, his return from an ACL injury in the spring will help further solidify what is expected to be one of the better linebacker corps in the SEC. The unit certainly didn't play up to expectations against ULL's unorthodox option attack, but they will have the chance to redeem themselves this weekend against Georgia, and Lindsey will have the opportunity to play a key role in that.
D. Lindsey last played in 2005, when he started the final four games of the regular season and ranked third on the team in tackles with 58 stops. Lindsey, who is expected to see significant action this weekend backing up sophomore Rodney Paulk at strongside linebacker, is known for his aggressive, hard-hitting play, and he played a large part in the 2005 defense improving their porous play against the run in the second half of that season.
Head Coach Steve Spurrier was asked earlier this week what D. Lindsey could add to the Carolina defense, and he responded, "Dusty is a bigger linebacker than some of our guys. He's tough and likes to hit people... He's a little bit bigger guy in there, and he's not afraid to take on a big old guard or tackle."
The 6'3", 240 pound Lindsey provides another big, physical linebacker that the Gamecocks can rotate in, which should come in handy in this weekend's matchup against a run-oriented Georgia offense and in the weeks to come.
With Jordin Lindsey now set to sit out this season and Dustin Lindsey only a redshirt junior, both players are expected to return for their senior seasons next fall to finish out their Gamecock careers, together.
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