Here’s a look at my all-time Gamecocks’ defensive team.
When South Carolina fans voted on the Modern Era defensive unit in 1992, they included three of those named on my Top 5 defensive linemen list.
Andrew Provence (1980-82)
Since they started keeping the stat in l967, he was one of only three interior linemen to lead the Gamecocks in tackles for a season, and the only one who did it two years in a row.
Andrew had 161 tackles in '81 and 133 in '82, and he is one of only two players to record more than 400 tackles in his career. He is second on the all-time list for sacks (26.0) and fourth on the career list for tackles for loss in a season (35.0).
He was named to the 1982 Sporting News All-America team, was a third-team Associated Press All-American and was selected to play in the Senior Bowl after his senior year. Andrew was a third-round pick by Atlanta in the 1983 NFL draft, and he played a total of eight years for the Falcons and the Denver Broncos. Andrew was inducted into the USC Hall of Fame in 2012.
John LeHeup (1970-72)
He tied for second with Dickie Harris for leading tackler (50) for the '70 season. He was named to the first-team Coaches All-American squad in '72. The late coach Paul Dietzel said of him, “John is the best defensive tackle I have ever coached. If I have ever seen an All-American, John LeHeup is one.”
John played one season with the Memphis Southmen of the WFL, and spent four seasons in the Canadian football league with three different teams. He was inducted into the USC Hall of Fame in 2012.
Roy Hart (1983-84, '86-'87)
Technically a nose guard, Roy used his cat-like quickness to record a remarkable 112 total tackles in '86. He tied for first in sacks in both the '86 (4.0) and '87 (5.0) seasons and is ninth in career tackles for loss (29.0).
Roy was drafted in the sixth round of the1998 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. He split the '91 season between the Los Angeles Raiders and the London Monarchs, where he was an All-World League selection. His last season was in the CFL in '94.
My other two picks on the defensive line for the All-Time team are:
Although he faced double and triple-teams all season and struggled with some nagging injuries, JD still had a very solid season statistically, with 35 total tackles, 24 solo with 10.5 for loss. His three sacks gives him 24, and moves him into third place on the career sacks list. His two pass breakups, eight quarterback hurries and one forced fumble were impact moments.
Melvin Ingram (2007-11)
He became a force when he moved down from linebacker to tackle. Melvin is tied for fourth in tackles for loss (15.0) and sacks (9.0) for a season. He is seventh in tackles for loss (30.5) and fourth in sacks (21.5) for a career. He was the team leader in sacks for both 2010 (9) and '11 (13). But most Gamecock fans will remember Melvin for the fake punt he took 68 yards for a touchdown in the 45-42 win over Georgia in '11.
The Modern Era team picked one player from my All-time Top 5 linebackers.
James Seawright (1981-84)
He was an unanimous pick. 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 he 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 ever for a Gamecock. He had 26 tackles in the 8-0 win against N.C. State, and 23 in the 22-21 win against Clemson.
He was drafted in the 11th round by the Buffalo Bills in 1985. James was inducted into the South Carolina Hall of Fame in 2003.
The other two choices for the All-Time team are:
Eric Norwood (2006-09)
He 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.
J.D. Fuller (1979 -81-83)
In my mind, he might rival Seawright in the vicious-hitting department. J.D. 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.
The Modern Era team picked four of the same defensive backs as I did for my Top 5, guys who played before 1987, and as I said in the story, I picked five Gamecocks who made their mark before Carolina became DBU.
Dickie Harris (1969-71)
Legendary for his returns, Dickie was a complete player. He made a combination of 162 punt, kickoff and interception returns during his career. He holds the top spots in seven return categories: most punts returned in a game (6), most punt return yards in a game and (143) for a season. He is No. 1 in punts returned in a season (37), most punts returned for a touchdown (3) and most kickoff return yards. For a career, he leads in most punts returned (77), most punt return yards (825) and most punts returned for a TD. Harris tied John LeHeup for leading tackler (50), in '70 and in '71 he was the team leader in interceptions (5).
Harris was an American Football Coaches Association first-team All-American in 1970. He enjoyed a 10-year career with the Montreal Alouettes, which spanned 134 games. He was an 8-time all-star, and he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998.
Bobby Bryant (1964-66)
He was also an outstanding pitcher for the USC baseball team (1965-67). Bobby holds the season record for best punt return average at 18.5 (13 for 242 yards). He was team leader in kickoff returns (9 for 181 yards) in '64, and punt return leader in '64 (10 for 128 yards) and in '65 (13 for 242 yards). He was the interception leader in '65 (3). Bobby's school-record 96-yard punt return for a touchdown against N.C. State was key in the 31-21 victory over the Wolfpack in 1966, the only game the Gamecocks won that season. He was the first pitcher in USC history to strike out 100 batters in a season.
Bobby was first-team All-ACC in '66, and named a first-team All-American by the New York Daily News and the Detroit Sports Extra. After the '67 season, he won the Anthony J. McKelvin Award as the ACC's Most Outstanding Athlete.
Bryant was drafted by the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox in baseball, but he went on to an amazing 13-year career with the Minnesota Vikings. He is second on the Vikings all-time list with 51 career interceptions. He was named to the 1975 and 1976 NFC Pro Bowl squads and is one of 10 Vikings to have played in all four of their Super Bowls in the '70s. Bryant was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
Brad Edwards (1984-87)
He was the leading tackler in '87 (130), and is second on the all-time interceptions list (8) and third in passes broken up (13) for a season. He is number six on the career list for pass breakups for a career (21). Two of Brad's biggest moments as a Gamecock came against Clemson. He returned interceptions for touchdowns in the '86 game in a 21-21 tie, and a 61-yarder in the 20-7 victory over the Tigers in the '87 contest. The best game of his Carolina career, however, was an incredible 21-tackle (14 solo), two tackles for loss, and one interception performance in the 13-6 upset of Georgia in 1987. He was named second-team All-American by United Press International and third-team by the Associated Press in '87.
Edwards went on to a 10-year NFL career with the Vikings, Redskins, Falcons and Packers. He was part of the Redskins' Super Bowl XXVI championship team. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003
Rick Sanford (1975-78)
He was the punt return leader in '77 (14 for 44 yards) and the '87 season leader in interceptions (4). His senior season, he was the leading tackler in five of 11 regular-season games. His best effort was an incredible 11-tackle, two pass break up and two interception day against Appalachian State.
Sanford was named a first-team All-American by The Sporting News in '77, and he became USC's first first-round NFL draft pick in 1979, when he was chosen by New England. He played six seasons ('79-'84) with the Patriots and spent the '84 season with the Seattle Seahawks. He was inducted into the USC Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.
To make this a true All-Time list for the secondary I must add three players from the last decade:
Stephon Gilmore (2009-11)
In his freshman debut, he intercepted a pass in the end zone on the last play of the 2009 season opener to preserve a 7-3 win over N.C. State. It was the first of many game-changing plays Stephon would make in his career, but it also represented a significant shift in recruiting that would propel Carolina to national prominence.
The first of four Mr. South Carolina Football winners to sign with the Gamecocks, he helped influence in-state stars such as Justice Cunningham, Devonte Holloman, Alshon Jeffery, Jimmy Legree and D.J. Swearinger in the 2009 class. Stephon started every game, and earned Freshman All-America honors by Phil Steele, CollegeFootballNews.com, and Scout.com, and Freshman All-SEC honors by the league's coaches.
He ranked fifth on the team with 56 tackles, 39 solo, 6.0 for loss, three sacks, one interception and eight pass breakups. In '10 he led the team with 79 tackles, 6.0 for loss, 3.0 sacks, and three interceptions. In his final season before turning pro, Stephon was again solid as a rock with 46 total stops, 35 solo, one sack and four interceptions.
Captain Munnerlyn (2006-08)
He had five starts as a true freshman, and was credited with 36 tackles, 27 solo, two interceptions and five pass breakups. Despite missing two starts due to injury, Captain earned postseason recognition, picking up first-team All-SEC honors from the league's coaches and Rivals.com, second-team accolades from the Associated Press, and third-team honorable mention from Phil Steele.
CollegeFootballNews.com put him on its first-team All-Sophomore squad. He was seventh on the team with 47 tackles, 40 solo. He also handled the punt return duties, ranking seventh in the SEC with 165 yard (9.2 yard average), and he returned a dozen kickoffs for 258 yards, (21.5 yard average.). Like Stephon, Captain made his junior season his last as a Gamecock, and he finished with another solid year – 44 total tackles, 29 solo, 10 for loss, two sacks, and five pass breakups
D.J. Swearinger (2009-12)
The physical, as well as the emotional leader for the defense, D.J. made receivers regret coming his way. D.J was an immediate contributor as a true freshman, as he played in all 13 games with 19 tackles, 13 solo, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry. As a sophomore in '10, he got eight starts, at both free and strong safety, and was fourth on the team with 66 tackles, 2.0 for loss, and five pass breakups. As a junior, he became a dominant figure in the secondary, with 80 tackles, 58 solo, and three interceptions. He closed out his career last season with another outstanding year. He was again second on the team in tackles with 79, 62 solo, two interceptions, seven pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
My pick for the all-time team punter is Chris Norman (1980-83). Chris holds USC school records for punting average in a game (58.3), most punting yards in a season (3,367), most punts in a career (261) and most punting yards in a career (10,677).
It's a great time to be a Gamecock!