I was prepared to write a nice long piece about what a surprise Jimmy Legree has been for the South Carolina Gamecocks during the 2012 season. Then the Tennessee debacle happened, and Jimmy Legree looked a bit like a walk-on.
I talked all preseason long about how Victor Hampton was the next Stephon Gilmore. He has all the tools. If he could get his mind right, he could be an amazing player.
Alas, that didn't come to pass.
Legree and Hampton have been good at times and have made big plays. They are a part of the No. 13 ranked defense in the country, so, of course, they aren't awful.
However, Arkansas and Clemson are on the way—the No. 16 and No. 11 ranked passing offenses in the country, respectively. South Carolina's defensive numbers are good, but when Tennessee's 20th-ranked pass offense came to town, we all saw what happened.
Legree and Hampton looked like chumps, and Tennessee burned the Gamecocks for 381 passing yards. That's a huge number, and neither of the starting corners could handle the large receivers and excellent passing. It was a frightening thing to watch.
If Tennessee's defense wasn't so awful, the Volunteers would have walked out with a win.
Now the Gamecocks face two of the best passing offenses in college football. Tyler Wilson and Tajh Boyd must be licking their chops after watching the Tennessee game. These are elite quarterbacks who have much better receivers to work with than the Volunteers do.
Clemson could look to really hurt the Gamecocks due to the embarrassments the Tigers have suffered at South Carolina's hands over the past three years.
Jimmy Legree has been mostly amazing this season and has played well above his head. Victor Hampton has unlimited potential. If these two can't cover receivers one-on-one from here on out, though, it's going to be a rough end to a season filled with rough moments.
A 10-2 regular season may not be meaningful to some programs, but for South Carolina, back-to-back 10-win seasons following a nine-win SEC East-winning year is something to hang its hat on.
Winning a bowl game would mean back-to-back 11-win seasons and another chance for something special in Columbia in 2013. The Gamecocks are close, whether or not anyone wants to believe it.
The corners may very well be the difference between 11-2 and 8-5.