Brad Edwards: Defensive 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.
Below is Edwards' analysis of the South Carolina defensive effort against Ole Miss:
"Bend but don't break" is the best term I can think of to describe Carolina's defensive effort in Saturday's victory over Ole Miss. With that said, I have to give credit to the Rebels' offensive staff for what was a very well thought out offensive strategy to attack one of the nation's premier defenses.
To begin with, the Rebels went right after USC's inexperienced corner Addison Williams, catching him slightly out of position for Ole Miss's first two plays. The Rebels employed a classic play combination designed for defenses with good pursuit to the ball. It entailed passing on the first two plays of the series to the offense's right sideline, then coming back with a run play that starts out like it is going to the same sideline as the first two plays but is actually a reverse with the ball countering back to the opposite sideline.
The Rebels caught Carolina completely by surprise and ended up with the game's first big play. It was a big play not only in yardage gained but more importantly by what it accomplished in the way of neutralizing USC's aggressiveness and pursuit. At that point, Ole Miss had the South Carolina defense back on its heels and as a result could now implement their inside running game. By lining up Dexter McCluster in the backfield in a single wing type formation, Ole Miss could use their offensive guards to trap USC's defensive tackles and create major running lanes between the tackles for the shifty McCluster. Eight plays and 76 yards later USC's defensive unit had given up its first 1st quarter touchdown of the season.
The next series was much of the same with Ole Miss utilizing a very balanced attack, moving the ball around to different sides of the field. They started out again using early zone pass plays designed to soften up the defense so to again open up the inside running game. Once again the Rebels were able to capitalize on their "wild rebel" formation; using the inside counter to draw the USC defenders to one side, creating a seam on the backside of the pursuit for the ball carrier. Again Ole Miss moved the ball with ease and scored with 1:49 left to go in the 1st quarter on another Dexter McCluster inside run.
The law of the Big Mo (momentum) is as much a part of sports as it is of business. Particularly in an emotional sport like football, momentum can carry significant force until a counterbalancing act occurs to disrupt it. This was precisely the case on the Gamecock defense's third series, and much of the credit goes to the defensive staff for making a series of adjustments beginning with the tactical move to pressure the Rebel offense with a blitz scheme. They also craftily began to move their defensive front into different looks, as well as, stunt them to disrupt the Ole Miss blocking assignments.
The big play occurred when, for the second week in a row, the staff masterfully moved Eric Norwood around to the defense's left side and rushed him in what looked to be the guard tackle gap. Norwood easily beat the pass blocker and pressured Ole Miss QB Jevan Snead out of the pocket and into the hands of #96 Clifton Geathers. Geathers stripped the ball, and it was scooped up by defensive tackle Nathan Pepper who returned it for a touchdown on what ended up being the break though play for the Gamecocks.
Although Ole Miss would go on to score ten more points during the afternoon, the momentum and control exhibited early on by the Rebels would never be the same. With the exception of the snafu on the well executed roll out and throw back pass by Ole Miss that went for a touchdown, the USC defense pretty much dominated the second half.
On another note, the Gamecock offense showed up in major fashion this week, which was a long time in coming, ultimately forcing the Rebels' offense out of their running game and into a vertical passing game in the fourth quarter. I said all week that USC would have to score more than 21 points to win, and that my friends was clearly the case.
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