April 21, 2007

Lindsey's return will be key

Analysis and commentary by Keith Allsep.

After fighting his way back from academic ineligibility and becoming a team leader both in winter workouts and spring practice, the news was not good for linebacker Dustin Lindsey following last Saturday's Garnet-Black game. The 6-foot-3, 239-pound redshirt junior suffered a tear of his ACL and could miss the first month of the 2007 season. In today's report, we will take a post-spring look at the USC linebacker corps and why Lindsey's return could be critical for that unit.

Any discussion about linebacker begins with Jasper Brinkley. The 6-foot-2, 262-pound senior made an immediate impact last season, leading the Gamecocks in tackles, with 107. The All-American candidate and future Butkus watch list candidate is the leader of the Gamecock defense. From the first play of the season when he put a bone-jarring hit on Mississippi State quarterback Michael Henig to the final play of the regular season when he sacked Clemson's Will Proctor.

With the move of Casper Brinkley back to linebacker, the Gamecock defense is beefing up it's linebacker unit in an attempt to better stop the run. While Casper struggled this spring in dropping into zone coverage, he excelled as a run-stopper in the box. Obviously, when fall practice begins it will be critical for him to make the necessary strides in making his drops and playing in space if he is to maintain his starting position at outside linebacker. If he does not, a move back to defensive end is not out of the question, as defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix experimented this spring with him at defensive end in pass rushing situations.

Sophomore Rodney Paulk was one of the major surprises on the USC defense in 2006, as he earned a starting position in as a true freshman. The 6-foot, 217-pound Columbia, S.C., native has been moved to the weakside linebacker spot and exited spring practice listed as the starter. Last season Paulk had 36 tackles and one sack, along with 3.5 tackles for loss. With a year under his belt and a tremendous work ethic, the former shrine bowler and Richland Northeast star appears headed for a stellar sophomore campaign.

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