Over the years the Gamecocks have had a number of outstanding linebackers. Here are my all-time Top 5.
The No. 1 linebacker on my list is James Seawright (1981-84). James is fourth on the USC career tackles list (384), but 133 of those came his senior year, the 10-2 “Fire Ants and Black Magic” team of 1984.
He earned Associated Press and Football Writers All-America first-team honors and was a second-team selection by United Press International and Football News after the season.
That season, James had two of the most outstanding performances I have ever witnessed. He had 26 tackles in the 8-0 win against N.C. State, and 23 in the 22-21 win against Clemson.
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He was drafted in the 11th round by the Buffalo Bills in the 1985 NFL Draft. James was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2003.
There are other USC linebackers with better stats, but the reason I picked James as my No. 1, is because I have never seen a harder hitter or a more devastating tackler at the position.
At No. 2 on my list is Eric Norwood (2006-09), who started his Carolina career at defensive end before he moved to linebacker for his junior season in 2008. The position change did not affect his performance as he posted 75 tackles (14.5 for loss), 9.0 sacks, 9 quarterback hurries, 2 fumble recoveries and a forced fumble. Norwood was named first-team All-SEC by both the league's coaches and the Associated Press.
His senior stats were even better. For the 2009 season, Norwood posted 81 tackles (11.5 for loss), 7.0 sacks, 11 quarterback hurries, 3 blocked kicks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Following the conclusion of the 2009 regular season, Norwood was named a First-team All-American by the Associated Press and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.
He holds the school record for tackles for loss in a season (19.5 as an end), and is tied at second for sacks in a season (9.0 as an end). He holds the career record for tackles for loss (54.5) and sacks (29.0).
Norwood was selected in the fourth round, 124th overall, by the Carolina Panthers in the 2010 NFL Draft, and he was released during the 2012 season.
What I remember most about Eric is the level of intensity with which he played. He never took a play off. He earned the respect of his teammates and was named a team captain in his junior and senior seasons.
At No. 3 is J.D. Fuller (1979 -81-83), who in my mind might rival Seawright in the vicious-hitting department.
Fuller is No. 1 on the USC career total tackles list (405) even though he never led the team in total tackles during his career. He is one of only two players in South Carolina history to record more than 400 tackles in his career. He was credited with over 100 tackles in three consecutive seasons (143 in 1981, 131 in 1982 and 121 in 1983). J.D. was inducted into the USC Hall of Fame in 2011.
What I remember most about J.D. is how much he loved playing the game, and the fierce game face that he had. Running backs knew he meant business when he hit them.
The No. 4 spot on my list is Mike Durrah (1980-83). Mike set the USC mark for tackles in a single-season (179) in '83 on a team that struggled to a 5-6 record. He had a 23-tackle performance against North Carolina, and a 22-tackle effort against Clemson.
Mike is No. 3 on the career total tackles list (396) and he was voted among the 20 top defensive players in USC history by the Bleacher Report website.
What I remember most about Mike was that, despite the fact that the offense struggled and often put the defense in tough field position, he came through with big tackle after big tackle to stop opponent's drives.
The No. 5 pick on my list, Paul Vogel (1981-84), played alongside my No.1 pick and was also a member of the '84 team.
Vogel was the leading tackler in five games that season, and Seawright also was the leading tackler in five games. Paul's most outstanding game was the 36-32 win over Notre Dame, when he had 24 total tackles (3 UT, 21 AT). He was tackle leader for the year (164), which ranks 4th on all-time season list. He is 15th on the career total tackles list (262).
What I remember most about Paul is that he wasn't the biggest or fastest guy, but he was a very smart player who was always in the right place at the right time.
It's a great time to be a Gamecock!