For the Defense: Brad Edwards

GamecockAnthem.com is proud to welcome former Gamecock and NFL great Brad Edwards as a weekly columnist. Nothing can compare to the analysis of one who has played the game, and Brad has played the game at the highest levels, first at USC, followed by a sterling nine year career in the NFL. Brad will analyze the top-ranked USC defense each week in his column. Read inside for his expert analysis.


Brad Edwards may be most fondly remembered by South Carolina fans for his game-winning interception and touchdown against Clemson in 1987, his senior year. He led that 1987 club with 130 total tackles and eight interceptions, and was named an All-American free safety that year.

Drafted in the second round of the NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings, Edwards went on to enjoy a nine-year career in the professional ranks, playing for Minnesota, Atlanta, and Washington. He was a starter and defensive co-captain on Washington's Super Bowl XXVI championship team in 1991, runner-up MVP in Super Bowl XXVI, and was selected to USA Today's All-Pro team following the 1992 season. He retired from the NFL in 1997.

He worked at his alma mater for a number of years as a senior associate athletic director, and is now in private business.


Here is Edwards' analysis of the South Carolina defensive effort against UAB last Saturday, a game after which they are ranked as the #1 overall defense statistically in the nation:

Most all of us have at one time or another heard the saying that defense wins championships. Well, in this case and for the fifth straight week the play by South Carolina's defense may not have won a championship, but it was vastly responsible for the win. Clearly the defense represented the most productive unit of the game for the Gamecocks. The night was not without its shortcomings though, and although highly touted, the defense had to rely on sheer talent, depth, and persistence to ultimately prevail in a night characterized by relatively poor tackling and disappointing play from the backup squad.

Defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson's defensive unit, ranked ninth nationally in total defense entering the game, lived up to its growing reputation for the most part by its ability to execute its strategy from a technical standpoint and limit big plays in both the running game and passing game. Additionally, the defensive unit responded in favorable fashion to being put in a very difficult situation early on by a fumble from Gamecocks running back Eric Baker in the first quarter on USC's own 19 yard line, eventually limiting the Blazers to just a field goal.

USC's defensive group has started to develop a real "swagger" and an attitude that quite frankly it will need as they head into the meat of their SEC schedule. This will particularly be the case should help not arrive soon in the form of better and more dominating play on behalf of the offense as well as some much needed big plays in the kicking game.

For the most part the USC defense continued its dominating ways, limiting UAB to only 3 rushing first downs and 140 total passing yards. The real statistic for those of us that rely on them was the paltry 3.9 yards per play that this stingy defense allowed UAB, keeping in mind that the yards-per-play allowed would have been significantly lower had the Gamecocks not experienced so many missed tackles. The Gamecocks also stepped up their play with respect to turnovers, intercepting 2 passes and recovering a fumble. I guess that every team or unit deserves a pass at some point in a season, and I'm willing to grant Saturday's lack of concentration in regards to tackling as a pass for this defense.

That area can be improved during the week by simply providing an additional focus on it during practice and meetings, emphasizing a relentless mentality as players pursue the ball carrier and forcing each athlete to be in the very best tackling position relative to that ball carrier at the end of each practice play. And I mean EVERY play. Tackling is all about concentration and technique. The art of tackling is hard as one could imagine, and it's very common even for NFL players during practice to come to the point of contact with a ball carrier and to then simply run by them and say "I had ‘em" when in fact what you needed to do was to get into a good tackling position and physically wrap up the ball carrier with your arms, keep your feet moving but not take them to the ground. Enough on that.

Individually, Darian Stewart, Marvin Sapp, and Eric Norwood led the team in tackles and certainly Norwood's play particularly stood out as he seems to now becoming much more comfortable with his new position at Linebacker. He is an exceptional athlete and the defensive coaches seem to be doing a very good job of getting him into positions to make plays.

The front seven (the 4 down linemen and the 3 linebackers) looked to have executed their run and pass stunts fairly well with Nathan Peppers, Cliff Matthews and Clifton Geathers drawing noticeable attention.

Overall, it was a reasonably good showing by the defense against UAB, but that effort will have to be significantly stepped up this week if they expect any opportunity to shut down an Ole Miss offense that scored 31 points on a pretty good Florida defense. With what I've seen so far this season, I like their chances.


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