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June 20, 2013
Listen too long to some college football analysts and one could quickly become convinced that South Carolina won't need all 11 defensive players on the field simultaneously this season.
Jadeveon Clowney, a linebacker and perhaps a defensive back or two should suffice.
Of course, that won't happen. But Langston Moore doesn't view all the gobs of attention Clowney is getting (and will get) as the 2013 season draws closer as necessarily a bad thing, because opponents won't fully realize how talented some of USC's other defensive stalwarts are, such as junior defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and fifth-year senior defensive end Chaz Sutton.
Moore expects the untested linebacker corps to make a major contribution as well.
"We're not just a one-trick pony with one player," Moore recently told GamecockCentral.com. "We have a couple of guys (on the defensive line) and still have some good linebackers that can rush off the edge and a lot of guys who can generate pressure from the inside. Kelcy does that very well.
"I'm glad the talk hasn't started too early because with Kelcy and Chaz, and some younger guys coming in that are fairly highly touted, that bodes well for us in the future."
Considering the constant double- and triple-teams Clowney will surely attract this season, the door should be open for Quarles to make plays and beat opposing interior offensive linemen in one-on-one situations.
"Kelcy learned from coach (Brad) Lawing the last couple of years to be real disciplined in his pass-rushing lane, because he knows the quarterback is going to step up," Moore said. "He has to just keep pressing the pocket, get off (his block) and make a play."
The presence of the mega-talented Clowney, together with the growth of Quarles and the maturity of Sutton, could make this the one of the strongest and fastest defensive lines that USC has fielded in years.
No one appreciates a great defensive line better than Moore, who played defensive tackle for the Gamecocks during Lou Holtz's tenure and then six years in pro football. He believes Quarles, Sutton and others will feed off Clowney's expected physical domination of opponents.
"I'm really excited for that group of guys," Moore said. "They want to make plays and show people how good they are in their own right. That's good healthy competition. When I was in Detroit with Rod Marinelli, that's what he always wanted to promote. 'If this guy has 10 sacks, why don't you have 10 sacks?' It's not a matter of someone saying they're better than anybody else. The bar has been set, so let's just rise to the occasion."
Moore also feels that less-heralded defensive linemen such as J.T. Surratt, Gerald Dixon Jr. and Phillip Dukes are capable of stepping up and becoming productive players this season.
"If those guys didn't have the talent, they wouldn't be here. I feel those guys have the talent and ability. It's just about everybody rising to the top and putting the work in on the field," Moore said. "Guys like J.T. Surratt, all these kids are hungry and they want to put their best foot forward. That's why they decided to come to South Carolina."
The youthfulness of the linebackers (all five players on the pre-spring depth chart at middle and weakside linebacker were freshmen and sophomores) could be a concern, but Moore believes the intense preparation that began in the spring will pay dividends.
"It might be somewhat (of a concern), but the good thing is the coaches know this was coming last year, so they moved some guys around in the spring," Moore said. "They've recruited well and tried to get players in here early to get them acclimated. If it's just a matter of game speed, they'll get that handled. All that other stuff like Xsand Os, learning where to be and getting there on time, is more difficult."
The biggest question in the secondary is who will replace D.J. Swearinger as the vocal and emotional leader of the group. Moore acknowledged that it won't be easy replacing the peppy player that was drafted in the second round by Houston.
"I know number 27 (Victor Hampton) really wants to fill that role," Moore said. "He wants to be the latest in the legacy of defensive backs that have come out of South Carolina in the last few years. Jimmy (Legree) won't be a vocal leader, but he reminds me of Andre Goodman with the way he prepares and the pressure he puts on himself.
"But you'll never know it because he's very quiet. Camp will tell us who will develop into that loud and boisterous guy. But there is only one D.J. Swearinger. I wouldn't be surprised if (Clowney) or Kelcy grew into that role."
Moore appeared in a pair of Outback Bowls during his career at USC, but admits that the program has improved by leaps and bounds since then in a number of ways, tangible and intangible.
"When I was being recruited to South Carolina in 1999, that was the big pitch -- one day, it would be like this," Moore said. "Those days are here and they're here with more frequency. I know a lot of those guys are relishing in this moment and don't feel like they've arrived. Their maturity level and understanding the moment is greater than I had. They've taken it to the next level, and that's translated to the field. They hold themselves accountable."
Having an experienced coach set the tone for the program was important, and few do it better than Steve Spurrier, Moore said.
"Coach Spurrier has set the tone and he doesn't have to do crazy stuff that other coaches have to worry about," Moore said. "He just worries about guys getting the message and following the game plan and going out and just playing. That's what really makes the game fun. You don't have to worry about that other BS you hear about."
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