First, let’s establish parameters for our analysis. When it comes to Gamecock defensive squads, Joe Lee Dunn’s Fire Ant Defense of 1987 is the gold standard (allowing a mere 12 points per game). Conversely, the worst Gamecock defense of the modern era has to be Wally Burnham’s Heisman candidate creating machine of 1995 (with an unbelievable 36 points per game). Even under a best case / worst case situation, I’m going to assume that those examples are the two extremes ( <====famous last gamecock words).
Best Case: Cliff Matthews motors through offensive linemen on his way to multiple post season awards. Chaz Sutton learns from the master, and increases his own horsepower to match. Devin Taylor makes us forget about Clifton Geathers (actually, that will be fairly easy). Travian’s knees hold out and opposing centers come to dread the sound of his breathing. We all learn how to pronounce Olufemi Oladipupa Ajiboye, because Ladi asks us to (and you do what All-SEC D-tackles ask). Melvin Ingram plays solid backup snaps. Aldrick Fordham redshirts as our dominant DT of the future. The cheer of “Geau Jerideau” takes off among the student body as our third string DT becomes a short-yardage specialist.
Worst Case: Brad Lawing goes full Wally and insists his boys are only there to eat up blockers. Pass rush becomes nil. Ladi becomes Doughty. Matthews starts tuning his motor down to Sutton’s. Travian hobbles through the year in pain and with little impact. Devin Taylor reminds us each week of Clifton Geathers.
Best Case: Paulk, Wilson, Dickerson, Straughter, and Smith all sprout antennae and take on the determination and ferocity of the Fire Ants of old. Shaq doesn’t lead in tackles this time around, instead he edges out Matthews in sacks. Paulk takes his intensity level DOWN a notch and allows his body to survive a whole season.
Wally Case: Shaq’s hamstring keeps him limited, Paulk blows out his lungs with his first great barbaric yawp of the season and takes the medical hardship waiver. Dickerson struggles with the mental aspect of the job, and slows until he appears to have Burnham Wood (or Burnham’s son) strapped to his back. Straughter’s name starts reminding us of speech impediments instead of bloody massacres
Spurs / Defensive Backs
Best Case: Demario Jeffrey, Devonte Holloman, and D.J. Swearinger become the Three Ds of D(estruction, ominance, efense, etc.) and shut down TE and FB around the league. Stephon plays like Stephon, i.e. you don’t notice him moving but he’s already making the play. Culliver’s shoulders fuse into an anvil. Auguste and Whitlock successfully navigate passed the numerous organic temptations out there in route to solid seasons.
Wally Burnham is a Tool Case: Alonzo Winfield is forced to play numerous journeyman snaps (and for numerous reasons), including an entire series at Commonwealth Stadium as the spur, strong safety, and boundary corner simultaneously. Stephon loses interest in football and decides instead to solve the Israeli/Palestinian issue (which he does, but no one even notices).
Best Case: The 2010 defensive squad has the potential to better the 2009 edition, and could even challenge the Fire Ants in notoriety. I expect, however, that the best case for 2010 is somewhat more in line with the 2009 squad, which means we can anticipate around a 18-19 ppg average.
Worst Case: Georgia pounds the rock all day. So does Auburn, Alabama, Kentucky, Florida and Clemson. We give up a ton of yards on the ground, so our DBs don’t get to see much action, other than in clean up tackles. A “Miss Me Yet?” bumpersticker with a photo of Tyrone Nix is seen floating around Columbia.