Let's play a quickie game of word association, OK?
We write Nick Saban and you think... defense.
We write Gus Malzahn and you think... offense.
We write Steve Spurrier and you think... offense. Most of us do anyway. But it's not offense that's helped Spurrier turnaround -- hell, build -- a football program at South Carolina. The Gamecock defense has been the key to the turnaround.
Below are those SEC defenses that between 2007 and 2013 finished ranked in the national top 20 for total defense (versus BCS conferences only). You'll see some familiar names. And you'll see Carolina's name quite a bit:
|5. Alabama||2. Alabama||2. Alabama||9. Alabama||4. Florida||4. Tennessee||7. Auburn|
|7. Florida||6. Florida||3. S. Carolina||16. Florida||7. Alabama||6. Alabama||11. LSU|
|12. S. Carolina||10. S. Carolina||4. Georgia||18. LSU||15. S. Carolina||10. Florida||13. Georgia|
|19. LSU||13. LSU||6. LSU||19. Ole Miss||14. S. Carolina|
|9. Florida||18. Vanderbilt|
In five of the last seven seasons, South Carolina has ranked in the top 20 nationally in total defense (vs BCS teams). Not total offense... total defense. And while the Gamecocks have been stout with Jadeveon Clowney roaming the field, two of those solid defensive seasons predated the star's arrival in Columbia.
Defense has been the key to South Carolina's arrival on the national scene. But can the Cocks hold up on defense again this year?
Gone are five starters, leaving the defensive line to replace standouts like Clowney and Kelcy Quarles. The secondary lost two cornerbacks as well. Overall, the D isn't decimated, but it's taken some hits. Spurrier and defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward intend to mix in some 3-4 this year due to all the changes along the line.
At this point, however, it's likely that Spurrier and crew will once again find a way to build a stingy defense. In five of the last seven years that's been the case. At this point you'd have to say that's a trend.
Spurrier and defense. Who'da thunk that back in the 1990s?