Geathers Big Part of USC's Defensive Prowess

2007 saw Head Coach Steve Spurrier usher in one of the finest recruiting classes in Gamecock history. Clearly, that can only be decided after the completion of this class's tenure at USC, but all indications point to the class of 2007 living up to the hype. This week, takes a look at the emergence of one of the top recruits from that class, sophomore Clifton Geathers.

South Carolina native Clifton Geathers of Georgetown came to USC via Hargrave Military Academy. Geathers, who originally committed to The University of Georgia out of high school, spent a year in prep school and while there, committed to USC to the delight of Gamecock fans. In only his second season in Columbia, he is making his impact felt on the defense.

Due to a Jordin Linsey suspension for the Alabama-Birmingham game, Geathers got the nod making his first start of the season and did not disappoint. He finished third on the team with five tackles including one for a loss and added a quarterback hurry. The following week against Ole Miss, he continued his good play and made another three tackles. He also had a sack and forced a fumble that led to a Nathan Pepper's (rumblin', stumblin', bumblin') touchdown, giving the Gamecocks a 17-14 lead at that time during the game. The Gamecock defense, which struggled early against the Rebs, was able to make adjustments and hold Houston Nutt's team to just three points in the second half.

After the Ole Miss game was over, the Gamecock defense dropped from the number one defense in the country to number six. Though Geathers is a soft spoken individual, he was clear about the defense's goals this season saying, "We WERE the number one (ranked) defense. We're going to bring it back up there... we're going to get back up there."

This season, Geathers has seen significant playing time as Jordin Lindsey's backup. This not only shows the depth of this year's squad, but also bodes well for the future of the program. Even Spurrier quipped during his press conference how there was competition at every position and that players were stepping up and fighting for playing time. Nowhere is this more evident than on the defensive line. Geathers is a big part of that.

There is a pride that is apparent amongst the members of the 2008-09 USC defense when speaking to individuals like Clifton Geathers. As the conversation shifted to the physicality of the game of football and the big hits doled out by Eli's Elite, Geathers lit up and began talking about the competition it breeds saying, "there's got to be a competition... we compete every play. We challenge each other to do better than the other person. We go every play."

When asked about the team's reaction to Akeem Auguste's big hit this past Saturday and what is said to a player after a pop like that, he said with a grin, "Good job... nice hit... (get) ‘em... try to do it again."

Geathers was in no way promoting ill will towards his opponents. Instead, he was commenting on how his team is able to feed off of one another. There is accountability among the defense and these guys do not want to let each other down.

Soon, the focus shifted to this week's game at Kentucky. There did not appear to be any expectations in his demeanor, rather, an understanding that every week is big in the SEC. "Every game we play is a must win... we've had a couple of losses (earlier this season). We don't want to go through the same thing that happened to us last year," said Geathers in a manner that his team is well aware of how quickly the wheels can fall off.

Geathers was not able to speak too knowledgeably of what to expect this week because they have not watched film of Kentucky as of Tuesday morning. He said that they would be assessing their opponent that afternoon and he would have a better idea of what to expect. Geathers did say that their goal is much like every week, to keep their opponents off the scoreboard.

At 6-7 and 290 pounds, Geathers is an imposing figure. He is a man of few words that lets his play speak for him. If you bumped into Mr. Geathers in a public gathering place, you might mistake him for a basketball player, but all you've got to do is ask a few SEC offensive linemen what sport he plays and they'll tell you. So, when you're watching USC and Kentucky this Saturday afternoon, keep an eye out for number 96. He'll be the one causing havoc along the Wildcat line of scrimmage.

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