Through 11 games — and mercifully at the team’s bye week — South Carolina’s plug-and-play defense is hanging in there.
Giving up 308 yards a game, the Gamecocks are third in the SEC (behind only No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Alabama) and 20th in the country in total defense.
They’re even better in passing defense (eighth in FBS, 163 ypg), despite a corner rotation that consists of two true freshmen and two sophomores. (Tip your cap to first-year corners coach Lorenzo Ward for a lot of that.)
“It’s obvious these kids have something to them,” Johnson said after the Florida game, which included a fourth-and-short stop of Tim Tebow.
Wilson’s a pretty prime example of that “having something to them.”
Johnson and head coach Steve Spurrier wondered aloud whether Wilson — listed at 5-11 and 210 pounds — could physically perform in the middle of the field against SEC offenses. Spurrier said he might get “pushed around by some of them big linemen.”
That was after the Georgia game, the second game of the season.
Now in November, Wilson leads the Gamecocks with 77 total tackles.
“Right now, we are a young football team,” Mangus told the crowd. “We are the second-youngest Division I football team in the country. We have some great young players.”
One player singled out by Mangus was freshman defensive back Stephon Gilmore.
“(Gilmore) is truly one of the best I have ever seen,” Mangus said. “His attitude, his love of the Gamecocks. I’m a big believer that at the University of South Carolina, everything that we want to happen here will happen here. The way that it is going to happen is to have everybody in the locker room that is 100 percent Gamecock. That is where we are at, what we are looking for, and that’s what we have in our locker room. All our young players are 100 percent Gamecock.”