Steve Spurrier is known throughout the country for his ability to score points. With two of the elite skill position players in the game in sophomore running back Marcus Lattimore and junior wideout Alshon Jeffery he has the star power to take advantage of his scheme and aggressive play-calling.
Whatever success the Gamecocks will have in 2011, however, can be directly attributed to the play of their defensive line.
Senior Melvin Ingram has emerged as the most dangerous and versatile defensive lineman in the country. He's already scored touchdowns on defense and special teams, currently ranks third on the squad with 26 tackles, is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and leads the SEC with 7.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. He's been recognized as the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week twice already (and another time as the Special Teams Player of the Week), including this past week when he ravaged reigning BCS champion Auburn for 11 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and a career-high three sacks. He also recorded an interception when Auburn attempted a fake field goal.
The 6-2, 276 pound Ingram has proven to be simply too quick and instinctive for interior offensive linemen to handle. A former defensive end, he's been moved inside this season due to the presence of two other, highly talented defensive ends for the Gamecocks -- true freshman Jadeveon Clowney and junior Devin Taylor.
Many considered Clowney to be the elite prep prospect in the country and his signing with South Carolina was met with great fanfare. His play thus far has proven that the hype was well justified as he's behind only Ingram in terms of tackles for loss (five) and sacks (four) on the team. Listed at 6-5, 254 pounds, he already has the looks of a future NFL star. In another couple of years, he could be scary.
Taylor, 6-6 and 260 pounds, has the length and athleticism NFL scouts are looking for but hasn't played with nearly the consistency or produced the big plays that Ingram and Clowney have. Taylor's height has caused him to struggle, at times, this season with making tackles in close spaces. Scouts characterize him as a "bit stiff" and unable to change directions quickly enough to adjust in space. This was evident in South Carolina's close win over Navy when Taylor was credited with a season-high nine tackles, but missed opportunities for even more stops near the line of scrimmage. To Taylor's credit, he has proven a more reliable tackler in recent games. Considering his upside, continued improvement could lead to his ultimately being graded as a better pro prospect than Ingram, despite the fact the lesser production (19 tackles, four tackles for loss, one sack).
If South Carolina is able to solve their issues at quarterback and emerge as the BCS bowl contender they appear to be, a significant portion of the credit should go to their defensive line. NFL scouts certainly are doing so...