South Carolina’s record stands at 2-4 at the midpoint of the season. But that’s not really a reflection on the defense, which is allowing 20.2 points per game.
That’s good for 27th nationally and sixth in the SEC, but the Gamecocks — especially linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams — have insisted allowing any points is allowing too many.
The conversation about the defensive line starts with Darius English. The senior defensive end has 6.0 sacks, tied for seventh nationally. He’s a terror coming off the edge and has been picking up his play as the season has progressed.
Taylor Stallworth also has been a steady presence up front for South Carolina. His numbers aren’t overwhelming, but his play has been solid and mostly consistent.
Senior Marquavius Lewis has started all six games at defensive end. But the second defensive tackle spot has been a bit of a revolving door. Kelsey Griffin had the job to open the season, but Ulric Jones took over after two games. Keir Thomas started against Texas A&M and Georgia.
The production, apart from English’s sack total, has not been high and the Gamecocks go into their bye week after being thoroughly dominated up front by an average Georgia offensive line.
Freshman D.J. Wonnum has played a decent number of snaps, showing promise and potential. Dante Sawyer also has had moments and made a few plays. Abu Lamin and Kobe Smith also have played on the defensive line in the first six games.
It certainly is hard not to wonder what this group would look like if Skai Moore was healthy and playing his senior season in 2016. It’s also a wonder what difference a healthy Larenz Bryant would make. But the group has been working with the same players since the start of fall camp.
The main playing group has been consistent: T.J. Holloman, Bryson Allen-Williams and Jonathan Walton. The backups also have been the same: T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Pittman.
Their play has been less consistent. Stopping the run and tackling has been an issue for the Gamecocks often and it has definitely been a problem for the linebackers.
Allen-Williams has flashed his ability, especially when given the chance to rush the passer. He leads South Carolina with 37 tackles.
Holloman, who primarily has played the middle linebacker spot, is second with 35 and Walton is fifth with 29.
Grade: C –
Going into the season, the secondary looked to be the group of concern on the defense. It might actually be the best through the first six games. The unit ranks No. 17 in the nation in passing yards allowed per game.
Cornerback Jamarcus King is the bright spot on the defense, apart from English and Stallworth. He had an acrobatic interception against East Carolina and is the toughest tackler on the back end. He has shown he will fight through blocks and deliver hits with more willingness than most of the secondary.
Chris Lammons has a pair of interceptions and has steadily gotten better as the season has gone along.
Safety has been more concerning than cornerback up to the midpoint of the season. D.J. Smith and Chaz Elder opened as starters, but Elder missed time with an injury and Smith was briefly benched for lackluster tackling. Smith has been up and down. Chris Moody moved back to safety from linebacker and has been decent in recent games.
Steven Montac has gotten time at safety in the search for more physical play.
Grade: B –