South Carolina’s All-Decade Team: Who else? Jadeveon Clowney leads dominant defense
Editor’s note: Saturday Down South has selected an all-decade offensive and defensive team for all 14 SEC programs.
These front sevens will measure up with most elite teams of this decade, both in production and highlight-reel hits.
At the start of the 2010s, South Carolina was on an upward swing never seen in program history. Before Steve Spurrier’s run of 3 consecutive 11-2 seasons, the Gamecocks had only registered 1 double-digit win season, a 10-2 mark in 1984 under Joe Morrison.
The Gamecocks went to 8 bowl games and won five5 including 4 in a row from 2011-14. Overall, they went 82-60 this decade.
Any discussion of the South Carolina defense during the 2010s has to include Jadeveon Clowney’s hit on Michigan’s Vincent Smith in the Outback Bowl.
Here’s the defensive All-Decade Team, which includes stars on several of those squads:
DL: Jadeveon Clowney
Likely the best pass rusher in school history, Clowney was right in the middle of that 11-2 run and started 23-of-36 games for the Gamecocks. He finished 2nd in school history with 47 tackles for a loss and 3rd with 24 sacks. He holds the school record with 9 forced fumbles. He was a 2-time All-American and 2-time All-SEC pick. He was the 3rd Gamecock to earn 1st-team All-American honors in 2 seasons.
He is the 2nd player in program history selected No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft.
Backup: D.J. Wonnum: One of the more consistent pass rushers, when healthy, Wonnum has 13.5 sacks in four seasons. He’s also one of just three sophomores who was named a permanent team captain in school history.
DL: Melvin Ingram
A consensus All-American in 2011, when he recorded 11.0 sacks. He was the Gamecocks’ 1st defensive player to be named a consensus All-American.
Ingram was the No. 18 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Backup: Chaz Sutton: A permanent captain on the 2013 team, Sutton played in 50 games during his career and made 75 tackles with 20 tackles for a loss and 9 sacks.
DL: Kelcy Quarles
In his last season in 2013, Quarles was a unanimous 1st-team All-SEC selection and named 1 of 4 permanent captains. He led the team and tied for 3rd in the SEC with 9.5 sacks, and led the team and was tied for 4th in the league with 13.5 tackles for loss.
Backup: Darius English: English was named 2nd-team All-SEC by the Associated Press and 3rd-team All-SEC by Phil Steele during his final season. He led the team and tied for 4th in the SEC with 9 sacks, tying for 5th on the school’s single-season list (15).
Spur/Buck: Sharrod Golightly
Named a permanent captain in 2014, Golightly played in 46 games and made 23 starts in his career. He had a big game in the bowl win over Miami with 8 tackles and 2 tackles for a loss. He made 47 and 57 tackles in his final 2 seasons, 2013 and 2014.
Backup: Daniel Fennell: He appeared in 30 games in 3 seasons with 7 starts, even with a torn ACL. He represents the Gamecocks on the SEC Football Leadership Council.
LB: Skai Moore
He had an incredibly productive career from 2013-17 and compiled 353 tackles (213 solo), 20.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 20 passes defensed, 14 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and 3 fumble recoveries. Moore was the 15th player in Division I history to lead his team in tackles in 4 seasons (2013-15, 2017). His career 14 interceptions tied for the South Carolina record.
Backup: T.J. Gurley: Accounted for 159 tackles over 3 seasons from 2013-15. He played in 46 games over 4 seasons with 23 starts, and overall had 182 tackles and 3 interceptions.
LB: Bryson Allen-Williams
From 2014-18, he played in 43 games and made 176 tackles (107), 6.5 sacks, 4 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries. As a senior in 2018, he was selected as the team’s Comeback Player of the Year after he missed time with surgery for a shoulder injury.
Backup: Sherrod Greene: Last year started all 13 games and was second on the team with 73 tackles. Entering this season, Greene appeared in 23 games over the past 2 seasons with 15 starts. He has 34 tackles this season, and 129 tackles over 3 seasons.
LB: T.J. Brunson
He’s been at or near the top of the team lead in tackles for 3 seasons. Last year, he was named a permanent team captain, and chosen by his teammates with 4 postseason awards. Last year, he had a 2-game SEC stretch in which he recorded a total of 45 tackles.
Backup: Jonathan Walton: Named the Most Improved Linebacker of the Spring in 2014 and 2015. He made 22 starts over his final 3 seasons and made 171 tackles.
CB: Stephon Gilmore
One of the blue-chip defensive recruits alongside Clowney, Gilmore started all 40 games he played in at South Carolina and made 181 tackles, recovered 4 fumbles and made 8 interceptions (1 returned for TD).
In 2010, Gilmore was selected first-team All-SEC by the league’s coaches and by Phil Steele. In the 2010 upset of Alabama, Gilmore shared the team lead with 9 tackles, including a career-high 2 sacks. He was named to the Paul Hornung Award Watch List, an honor given annually to the most versatile player in major college football.
He was the 10th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Backup: Keisean Nixon: He started 11 of 12 games in 2018 and recorded 71 tackles and 2 interceptions. His best game came in the Ole Miss win, with 13 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and a pass breakup.
CB: D.J. Swearinger
One of the biggest hitters around, Swearinger had a memorable hit on Clemson’s Andre Ellington. He was a 2nd-team All-SEC selection his senior season. In a career that ended in 2012, Swearinger made 33 starts with 244 tackles and 6 interceptions. He was a 2nd-round pick in 2013.
Backup: Rashad Fenton: One of the more dependable defensive backs in recent memory, Fenton appeared in 48 games over the past 4 seasons and made 30 starts. He made 122 tackles, 5 interceptions, 24 passes defended. He was a 6th-round pick in 2019.
S: Chaz Elder
He played in every game in 2013 and 2014, and overall, appeared in 35 contests with 12 starts, 70 career tackles and 1 interception.
Backup: JaMarcus King: King played in 26 games over 2 seasons, and recorded 97 tackles, 5 interceptions with 1 sack.
S: Brison Williams
Why: Made 7 interceptions during a career from 2012-14 and was considered the leader of the secondary in 2014. That season, Williams led the team with 4 interceptions, which tied for 4th in the SEC, and also returned 2 for scores.
Backup: Steven Montac: He played safety, cornerback and nickel and played in 33 contests over the past 3 seasons with 20 starts, 130 tackles and 3 interceptions.
P: Joseph Charlton
Why: One of the best punters in the country, Charlton ranks 4th in the nation in punt average (48.0), and is the top Division I punter with 25 punts of 50-plus yards this season. He entered the season with the school record for career punting average at 44.1 yards per punt and set the single-season punting average mark in 2018 with a 44.8-yard average.
Backup: Sean Kelly: Averaged 44.25, which was 4th in the SEC in 2015, and 42.53 in 2016.