Breaking Down The Top Defensive Players The Gamecocks Will Face This Season

With kickoff just over a month away, we take a deep dive into some of the top talent South Carolina’s offense will face this upcoming season.

Defensive Line

Kobie Whiteside, Missouri

A former 3 star recruit who has developed into an All-Conference caliber player. The senior anchor for the Missouri defensive line returns after totaling 6.5 sacks last season. He also added 7.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery in 2019.

At 6”1’ 310 pounds, his physical stature doesn’t raise any eyebrows, but overlooking Whiteside would certainly be a mistake. He has proved that he can still be a force against substantial competition, having multiple sacks against both Florida and South Carolina in 2019.

He’s a projected mid round draft pick with potential to be selected on day two of the 2021 NFL Draft. 

Big Kat Bryant, Auburn

Big Kat Bryant would surely be a first team All-American for best names in college football. As far as his talent on the field, he is a candidate for national awards there as well.

He was named preseason first team All-SEC by Athlon Sports, and has been named to the Nagurski Award watch list for 2020, an award given to the nations best defensive player.

Over his career at Auburn, he has totaled seven sacks, 8.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. One of his most memorable highlight plays came against Oregon in 2019, where he had a 83 yard fumble recovery to set up the Auburn offense at the goal line.

With Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson (a pair of top 50 draft selections) now gone, Big Kat Bryant will be the star player for Auburn’s defense and is primed for a productive season. 


Nick Bolton, Missouri

Nick Bolton has emerged as a star player for Missouri. As a true sophomore last season he accumulated 103 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and one sack, which led to him being named first team All-SEC by both AP and Coaches.

He was also named a pre-season first team All-American by Athlon for 2020, as well as being named to the Nagurski award watch list.

At 6”0’ 232 pounds, his physical style of play is complemented well by his high football IQ, which is a pair of traits coveted by NFL scouts.

Certainly a future draft pick, likely in the first few rounds, Bolton will be a problem for every offense he faces as long as he is at Missouri. 

Monty Rice, Georgia

Monty Rice led the Bulldogs in tackles in his first full season as a starter last year, finishing with 89 on the season.

His career high in a single game came against South Carolina in 2019, where he had 12 tackles. Rice decided to return to Georgia after flirting with the idea of leaving early for the NFL draft, and is considered one of the top linebacker prospects in the 2021 cycle.

Similar to Nick Bolton, he excels at playing physical, fast, and hitting hard but is also very intelligent and has a high football IQ. He is considered to be a leader by the Georgia coaching staff, and the players around him seem to feed off of his intensity.

Having all the intangibles paired with the physical tools makes him one of the best linebackers in the nation. 

Defensive Backs

Richard LeCounte III, Georgia

LeCounte is set up to have an All-Conference, potentially an All-American caliber season. The Georgia safety and former five-star recruit has incredible talent matched by two full years of starting experience.

In those two years he has added up 135 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions, five fumble recoveries, and four forced fumbles.

His career high for single game tackles came against the Gamecocks in 2018, where he had 10 stops. He is already getting plenty of hype for the 2021 draft process, even being ranked as high as the #12 overall prospect by SportingNews.

A valuable piece of the Georgia defense projected to be top 5 unit again, Lecounte should be in the mix for national recognition and a first round draft pick. 

Derek Stingley Jr, LSU

Stingley Jr is a truly rare, special talent. One could go as far as to say he is a generational talent at the cornerback position.

As a true freshman at LSU, he easily earned the starting job from day one and went on to be named a consensus All-American. This is especially impressive considering LSU is known for having an abundance of defensive back talent on a yearly basis.

If he was draft eligible, it’s very likely he would have been selected in the Top 10 of the 2020 draft. Needless to say, there are just a handful of players at best who can make those claims in the modern draft era.

His six interceptions in 2019 was good for 1st in the SEC and 5th in the nation.

Barring an injury or something unforeseen, Stingley will leave LSU as one of the most decorated players in school history and should end up being a perennial pro bowler at the next level. 

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