LB/DE Eric Norwood

2007 Statistics

Coach: Steve Spurrier
21-16, 3 years
2007 Record: 6-6
at Georgia WON 16-12
at Louisiana State LOST 16-28
at North Carolina WON 21-15
at Tennessee LOST 24-27 (OT)
at Arkansas LOST 36-48

2007 Final Rankings
AP-UR, Coaches-UR, BCS-UR

2008 Outlook

The season-ending skid that followed the Gamecock’s 6-1 start last year has to have left a bitter taste in every players’ and coaches’ mouth. That’s good, for the five-game collapse to end 2007 scuttled the No.6 BCS ranking they had attained by week seven, and this year’s team is even better on paper in many ways. Such a lingering memory needs to be a chip on the Gamecock’s collective shoulders, something that motivates them to overcome the disappointment and convincingly surpass last year’s mid-season accomplishments. Knowing fourth-year coaching legend Steve Spurrier, lessons like these are sure to be applied, if not indelibly carved onto each team member’s facemask.

Still, this is an SEC team that has yet to win its division and is just catching up to their big brothers in the East for recruiting. Looking up at Georgia, Tennessee and Florida – the only schools to ever win this ever-toughening conference half – means South Carolina can still play the underdog, a position Spurrier covets and uses to its utmost advantage as unsuspecting giants overlook his team. Being overlooked may not happen as much with 17 returning starters, 17 of the same guys who handed then-No.11 (now No.2) Georgia and No.8 Kentucky their first ’07 losses.

The QB battle has been less than forthright in clarifying the best field general; both penciled-in starter Beecher and former starter Smelley (4-2 in ’07 when first-string) did anything but impress this spring, prompting a cover-up by OC Spurrier as he embellished his observations to onlooking reporters during this season’s initial practices. Pushing the passing dimension like usual all spring, even with the marginal aerial results, seems dubious; Spurrier needs to lean on his rushing game more if he knows his QBs aren’t true stand-and-deliver types. Realistically, they will be game managers, guys who can minimize mistakes and who will benefit from an extra DB being constantly pulled into the box to stop a formidable ground attack. The Gamecocks only out-rushed three foes all of 200. If they can just get back to averaging around 150 ypg on the ground (like they did in ’04 and ’06), consistency could work for the offense - instead of the sporadic nature of a marginal passing game putting extra pressures on this defense. The line just has to improve for any offensive wrinkle to work with so many talent position players stacked to impress their Palmetto patronage.

Speaking of defense, only a few pieces are new. Otherwise, it looks like lessons learned can be lessons applied for better results this time around, especially with so many returning starters hungry to avenge the ’07 embarrassment. Last year saw too many young players who weren’t ready for the SEC grind put in pivotal positions they shouldn’t have been in yet. This year, eleven with significant starting experience feature only four seniors, complimenting how last year’s four top tacklers were sophomores. The SEC’s top pass defense loses two key reserves but none of its prowess, with super athletic Chris Culliver pushing all four upperclassmen on the two-deep ahead of him. The other change is DE Eric Norwood (T-7th in TFLs) being switched out for SLB Cliff Matthews, a move that has each returning to their respective natural positions for which each was originally recruited. That now makes this possibly the biggest LB corps in the FBS, so we will see how underneath coverages fare. Only injuries can keep the defense from being one of the SEC’s best, no small accolade in this conference.

Last year’s schedule was the ninth-toughest after all was said and done, and South Carolina again gives itself the chance to become the best by playing some of the best. There is no warm up period with N.C. State and the Gamecocks starting off the nation’s 2008 college football season in a Thursday night primetime spectacle. Then another Thursday night ESPN showing at Vandy is followed by a home game with No.2 Georgia, who is eager for revenge, and this is all before September is half way through! The real challenge comes when LSU kicks off the five-game closing span which basically mimics the same gauntlet that took the Gamecocks down to close last year. It will be much more impressive (and a harbinger for 2009) if a mundane beginning is then followed by a peak out ending, one that sees South Carolina go at least 3-2 versus their final five tough foes. This is a very realistic scenario - the Gamecocks likely start slowly and improve steadily as the final stretch elicits their best football and forces them to find wins for bowl eligibility. Unpredictable, topsy-turvy, gun slinging…these are all words that have followed Spurrier and his offenses around since he began coaching at Florida (1978). This approach often produces the win, but more often provides a brand of football that is both “old school” and effective, the kind of football that is fun to watch and always spices up the conference race.

Projected 2008 record: 8-4
DB Captain Munnerlyn
QB - 3.5 DL - 3.5
RB - 3 LB - 4
WR - 4 DB - 4.5
OL - 3 ..
2007 Statistical Rankings
Total Off:
Sacks Allow:
Total Def:

Passing: Chris Smelley, 92-162-7, 1176 yds., 9 TD

Rushing: Mike Davis, 114 att., 518 yds., 5 TD

Receiving: Kenny McKinley, 77 rec., 968 yds., 9 TD

Scoring: Ryan Succop, 13-17 FG, 37-37 PAT, 76 pts.

Punting: Ryan Succop, 56 punts, 41.6 avg.

Kicking: Ryan Succop, 13-17 FG, 37-37 PAT, 76 pts.

Tackles: Emanuel Cook, 92 tot., 77 solo

Sacks: Eric Norwood, 6 sacks

Interceptions: Captain Munnerlyn, 3 for 38 yds.; Emanuel Cook, 3 for 72 yds.

Kickoff Returns: Chris Culliver, 34 ret., 23.8 avg., 0 TD

Punt Returns: Captain Munnerlyn, 18 ret., 9.2 avg., 0 TD


OFFENSE: Blake Mitchell-QB, Lanard Stafford-FB, Cory Boyd-TB, Andy Boyd-TE, William Brown-C, James Thompson-OG
DEFENSE: Casper Brinkley-DE, Cody Wells-LB, Brandon Isaac-CB, Chris Hampton-SS

Another year, another set of hurdles Spurrier and his staff will have to get their guys over to make the most of their offensive potential. This is one of the top offensive minds of all-time in the college ranks, so do not underestimate what the man from Johnson City (TN) can do with only modest means.

Spurrier saw the writing on the wall last year and he made sure Chris Smelley played lots of reps, a dividend that he thought would pay off in ’08. Sure enough, Smelley is the most experienced signal caller, but this former Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year (2005) has yet to hit his stride. Spring proved that neither Smelley nor junior counterpart Tommy Beecher has taken command, but Beecher gets the starting nod based on making less potential mistakes. Spurrier on where his QBs are at…“We need to go through [more] preseason practice. I found through all my years in coaching that some quarterbacks can really get better through the summer. Chris and Tommy have three months to understand the game and make good, quick decisions." Beecher is a roundabout legacy since his uncles played for Spurrier at Duke in the ‘80s, and he does have a strong pedigree. Beecher differentiated himself after Smelley threw five INTs in the spring game…the fact that Beecher threw three of his own in the spring scrimmage that didn’t allow for pass rushing and/or blitzes (and featured mostly second teamers from the back seven), you can see why Spurrier wants more from the guys who play his former Heisman-winning position. That leaves the door slightly open for last year’s No.4 dual-threat prospect Stephen Garcia, but Garcia has put himself on the backburner by being suspended until August 15th. The odds of Garcia and/or one of the two incoming froshes seeing much time under center are bad, but Spurrier has been known to go through his field generals at a rapid pace when in search of his best option under center. Too much talent is here to think Spurrier won’t coach his QBs up for maximum performance levels to be reached.
In an offense that throws it more than they run between the tackles, plenty of chances will come around for someone to make plays through the air.

Looking at the Gamecock offense from another angle, the only reason this running game ranked so poorly (101st) was due to a lack of commitment. All four games in which USC ran it less than 30 times were losses (longest run of the year for the entire team was 29 yards). Stopping the USC ground game seems like an easy plan that will work for foes until this offense proves otherwise. The Gamecock ground game works when employed, and senior Mike Davis has the soft hands to be the kind of back that this offense can continue to count upon. Davis, who was given just 35 carries over the last six games of ’07 due to maturity issues, will run in tandem with sophomore Brian Maddox. Davis seems to be getting to class and embracing the lead-by-example role he’s being forced into due to so much youth behind him needing to learn the ropes/system. Traditionally seen here, two backs work to keep legs fresh. And since Davis and Maddox both couple their big 220+-pound bodies with formidable speed, defenders cannot tell what the play will be just because the TBs sub out for each other. True FB Pat DiMarco will shift out to TE to get more playing time, but we think South Carolina should stick to two-back sets so DiMarco can get a head of steam as he plows for his teammates. But, hey, this is a passing offense and he blocks well from any position. This still leaves a need for a small, quick back to do damage in open space. Freshman Eric Baker is the only choice Spurrier has, so consider the lack of depth within the different running gears a weak point that limits the attack (in a day when RBs are often used creatively to line up outside).

Both TEs have extensive roles already - Jared Cook had the highest yards-per-catch average (14.0) for any South Carolina snarler with more than five catches, and ex-DE Weslye Saunders uses his 275lbs to open plays up in many ways. Big receivers are nothing new for Spurrier. Freshman Joe Hills needs to learn how to read coverages better, but he’s a sure deep threat (at 6’4) who will win many one-on-one battles before DB coaches start to mark him more closely. Dion Lecorn has to watch his size – Coach thinks he can be the next great WR to come out of last year’s class if Lecorn can stay focused and lean. The juniors Brown – Moe and Freddie – have both stepped into leadership roles with McKinley out of spring practices (turf toe). McKinley, last year’s leading SEC receiver and a former dual-threat QB, will be shuffled all over in attempts to get mismatches and to find the Mableton (GA) product some open space in which to run. Besides this year’s incoming class, the WRs – unlike the RBs – are stacked, awaiting their chances.

If you take away the sack yards lost, the Gamecocks prove themselves capable of running at a 4.5 yards per carry clip. All the experienced line has to do is learn from the tough lessons the SEC taught them and 2008 will show improvements on offense. The tackles started every game together, but senior Jamon Meredith is out for the first two games due to being granted a medical hardship waiver. Opening with N.C. State and a trip to Vandy don’t make it easy for Hutch Eckerson, who has been getting the most first-team reps due to having more experience than Quintin Richardson. But, like last year’s trial-by-fire that led to the five-game skid, the OL will be more for Eckerson and Richardson taking a few early lumps. Garrett Anderson has been suffering through a disc problem in his back, so Seaver Brown has been shifted over to compensate. Anderson’s troubles may actually produce a better starting five since Brown has been doing a better job throughout off-season practices in Anderson’s center slot. The move of Lemuel Jeanpierre to offense has proven fruitful; the former DT also has heeded tough lessons to give depth to any inside spot. The same goes for how Gurminder Thind’s backup capacity affords promise of improvements along the OL. Heath Batchelor is the final example of growth from last year paving the way for optimism in ’08 – starting the final three games as a freshman assures he will play better after the off-season clarified his experience and what is needed for an improved showing.

The main question now becomes whether Spurrier & Son do the usual and force the offense to be a passing machine primarily. This will, in turn, force the (so far) mediocre talent levels of their marginally developed QBs to be either quickly purged or unfortunately exposed… or do they work more at developing the running dimension with the iffy OL, potentially making opponents stack the box and thus creating winnable, over-the-top chances for the eager Gamecock WRs? We think the latter works best to start, but Spurrier is that infamous riverboat gambler-type who will probably choose the former and attempt to fit a round peg into a square hole all season. Hopefully, his peg becomes square or his hole becomes round, or he risks another campaign of unfulfilled potential within his offense.


WR Kenny McKinley


Returning Starters/
Key Players
QB Tommy Beecher-Jr (6-2, 227) Chris Smelley-So (6-2, 216)
Stephen Garcia-Fr (6-2, 221)
FB Patrick DiMarco-So (6-1, 242) (TE) Bryan Kingrey-Sr (6-1, 230)
TB Mike Davis-Sr (5-9, 214) Brian Maddox-So (5-11, 220)
WR Kenny McKinley-Sr (6-0, 182) Larry Freeman-Sr (6-1, 223)
WR Dion Lecorn-So (5-11, 220) Freddie Brown-Jr (6-3, 209)
WR Moe Brown-Jr (6-0, 186) Joe Hills-Fr (6-4, 202)
TE Jared Cook-Jr (6-5, 242) Weslye Saunders-So (6-5, 273)
OT Jamon Meredith-Sr (6-5, 301) Quintin Richardson-Fr (6-4, 289)
OG Seaver Brown-So (6-5, 307) Gurminder Thind-Sr (6-4, 281)
C Garrett Anderson-Jr (6-4, 307) Ryan Broadhead-Fr (6-5, 270)
OG Heath Batchelor-So (6-7, 308) Lemuel Jeanpierre-Jr (6-3, 293)
OT Justin Sorensen-Sr (6-7, 327) Hutch Eckerson-So (6-6, 291)
K Ryan Succop-Sr (6-3, 224) Spencer Lanning-So (5-11, 178)

Stephen Garcia QB 6-2/221 RS FR


Ellis Johnson is the new coordinator brought in to replace three-week hire Brian Van Gorder, who didn’t stay long after the Atlanta Falcons inquired about his plans. Johnson's loudest message to his players this spring has been this one: teams that play the most physical and are the toughest mentally are the ones that win in the SEC. It has been difficult to instill the new approach in just 15 spring practices, so the changes may keep the D from starting out as strong as many expect with so many faces back. Brought in from Mississippi State, Johnson inherits a young-but-experienced group that loses only a handful of members. Only four of the eleven returning starters are seniors (Lindsey started six games in ’06), and like on offense, lumps taken last season will strengthen the resolve for the evolving youth movement.

Run stopping was a real problem, seeing how every foe broke the 100-yard mark and how the three biggest point totals allowed in ’07 were to three of the four teams that ran for the most yards. Couple in how Johnson’s last Mississippi State crew also struggled mightily against running teams LSU and Arkansas, and you see why much has to be proven on the field for the Gamecocks DL before spring practice reports of progress along the will be believed. The first and foremost change is All-American Eric Norwood’s move to LB. In his place, we find Cliff Matthews, a DE recruit who was shifted to LB and started nine games there in ‘07. Matthews is looking better at his natural position (more on Norwood later). The other end will again be Jordin Lindsey, who started six games in ’06 before his academic problems kept him sidelined all of last season. Lindsey was the Outstanding Defensive Player in the Liberty Bowl the last time he strapped on a USC helmet, so his return has to help. Ex-OT Gaethers, possibly the most physically gifted of the DLmen, and classmate Robertson weren’t ready last year as true freshmen, but they were prototypical of many who were rushed into service before reaching the levels needed. The interior will also find improvement through maturity. Sophomore Ladi Ajiboye will prove why coaches were drooling about how much better he seemed this spring. This Freshman All-American (and All-SEC) of Nigerian descent is being labeled “dominant”, and Ladi moves quickly enough for a DT to earn such a tag. Marque Hall also moves especially quickly for his 300+ frame. The fifth-year senior never bounced back last year at quite the same level from a 2006 knee injury. He is rumored to have an uphill journey after more surgery this past off-season has Hall again fighting to keep his starting status. Jonathan Williams has been flooring throughout workouts and scrimmages, impressing the coaching staff enough so that losing Hall’s best effort won’t sting too much. Another knee injury took Nathan Pepper out of the 2007 ranks, but Pepper can play end also, making him a needed cog. If Kendrick Ellis can keep his weight down, he also has a place in the tackle rotation. The line looks improved, but N.C. State will let all know if the Gamecocks can again stop the run as needed to get back over .500.

Norwood as a linebacker is an interesting proposition – MLB Jasper Brinkley already tips the scales at 270lbs (listed at 275), so how much speed can guys this big (Norwood is 270lbs) really bring for matching up against TEs/WRs/HBs/RBs when they line up in passing situations? DC Johnson on Norwood’s switch to OLB from DE: “He's bright mentally, so he can handle it. He can learn both the linebacker spot, then switch up and be a rush (end) in the dime package." The rest of the corps is properly sized for running down field 50 or more yards at a hurried shot. Rodney Paulk has started since his true freshman campaign and finished as the team’s top tackler from those also at this position. Marv Sapp will back up Jasper Brinkley at MLB once all are healthy, but Brinkley out this spring gave Paulk and Marvin Ingram the chance to play the middle, giving promising results as the corps becomes stronger each day. Sinclair will have to keep his efforts consistent to hold of Shaq Wilson, an early enrollee who has turned many heads. "He [Wilson] came in and it was like we've been coaching him for three years," Johnson said. "He already knows a lot of stuff. You don't have to worry about him repeating mistakes." The compliment of linebacking types, if managed properly, will result in improved defensive results across the board.

One area we know is already strong is the Gamecock’s top SEC pass defense. Confidence within the secondary abounds - only allowed to run three basic coverages in the final spring scrimmage, the DBs killed with mostly second team guys filling as the starters were rested to keep them healthy. The biggest unveiling has been top receiver prospect Chris Culliver switching sides and fortifying the already-strong safety slots. His speed (4.28-seconds in the 40) has translated well…so far. Ex-triple jumper Darian Stewart is in front of the former five-star WR recruit, but Culliver also stepped in when Emanuel Cook sat out after breaking his thumb, so he will be able to play Rover or FS this fall. Cook started his first game as a true frosh and has improved steadily, finishing ’07 with a stat line that boasts “All-American” for ’08 (his four sacks were second on the team only to Norwood). The salutes for CB Captain Munnerlyn piled in (All-SEC First Team, coaches and Rivals) and will continue to come for the breakout junior who plays much bigger than his 5’9 frame brags. Ex-WR Carlos Thomas is the lone senior amongst the DB starters, though, leadership will come from each of them as the coverage units are old hat for the veterans. Stoney Woodsen is a smoking nickel, capable of starting when you consider how he had even more tackles last year than Thomas. The DBs will be left on islands regularly; zone coverages will be the different looks, a good change-up that will challenge opposing QBs on obvious passing downs.

The decline on D in ’07 over the last three games has to be worn as a chip on their collective shoulders. Some have even said this could be the top defense in the toughest defensive league, but until they reflect consistency over 12 regular season games, this stopping unit will have to re-earn any superlatives which have recently slipped through their fingers.


DB Emanuel Cook


Returning Starters/
Key Players
DE Cliff Matthews-So (6-4, 250) Clifton Geathers-So (6-7, 290)
DT Marque Hall-Sr (6-3, 314) Kenrick Ellis-So (6-5, 353)
NT Ladi Ajiboye-So (6-1, 300) Jonathan Williams-Sr (6-2, 290)
Nathan Pepper-Jr (6-1, 292)
DE Jordin Lindsey-Sr (6-3, 261) Travian Robertson-So (6-4, 270)
SLB Eric Norwood-Jr (6-1, 270) Yvan Banag-Sr (5-10, 235)
MLB Jasper Brinkley-Sr (6-2, 275) Marvin Sapp-Sr (5-11, 228)
WLB Rodney Paulk-Jr (6-0, 226) Dustin Lindsey-Sr (6-4, 242)
CB Carlos Thomas-Sr (5-11, 197) Addison Williams-So (5-8, 181)
CB Captain Munnerlyn-Jr (5-9, 185) Stoney Woodson-Sr (5-11, 197)
SS Emanuel Cook-Jr (5-10, 214) Mike Newton-Sr (5-11, 190)
FS Darian Stewart-Jr (5-11, 218) Chris Hail-Jr (5-10, 199)
P Ryan Succop-Sr (6-3, 224) Spencer Lanning-So (5-11, 178)




Ryan Succop is the Gamecock’s kicking machine – his punting efforts need to be met half way by the coverage teams, but his field goal kicking is solid from inside of 40 yards. Spencer Lanning is the same kind of all-around foot, and watch for Beecher to hit some quick-kicks for field-position wins. Culliver keeps his runback status on kickoffs, but Munnerlyn, the PR guy, can handle both jobs if any of the other speedsters don’t fill the void.