June 19, 2007

Sophomores rising - Defense

In 2006, a number of true freshmen made a profound impact for the Gamecocks, who finished with an 8-5 record, including season ending wins over Clemson and Houston in the Liberty Bowl. If the Gamecocks are going to improve upon their record in 2007 and play in a higher ranked bowl game, these players will have to step up their game even further. In today's column, we will take a look at the seven sophomores that could play a major role on the Gamecock defense in 2007.

Defensive end Eric Norwood made a huge splash last season, tying for the team lead in sacks with seven and garnering freshman All-American honors. While the 6-foot-1, 264-pound pass rusher did not start a single game in 2006, the Acworth, Ga., standout will be counted on as an every day player in 2007.

As has been stated many times, Norwood has a motor that never stops running and is a high energy player. This season, he must focus on playing the run as well as the pass. While he may be undersized by SEC standards, he makes up for his lack of ideal height by playing hard and playing fast, as he was often unstoppable at times during spring drills.

It didn't take long for even the most casual of practice observers to notice the physical play of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn when he arrived on campus last fall. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Mobile, Ala., native was second among defensive backs in interceptions with two and tackles with 36. The former two-star prospect, who appeared in 12 games, and started five of those contests, also led the team in kick-off returns, averaging 23.2 yards per return.

According to sources close to the program, great things are expected of the cover corner in 2007 and beyond, including the ability to earn all-SEC honors. This season, secondary coach Ron Cooper will be counting on Munnerlyn to lock down one side of the field, as the Gamecocks will continue to employ a high percentage of man coverage.

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