South Carolina senior safety D.J. Swearinger knows all about Denard Robinson and the chatter that follows him. Forgive the hard hitter from the Gamecocks secondary if he isn't overly awed.
"A lot of people say he's fast, but we've been saying he's just faster than the guys on his team," Swearinger offered, with a grin that hinted he's ready for the challenge.
South Carolina gives up only 17 points a game, with a defense featuring a monster front, including one of the most talented performers in the college game, in defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Ask Swearinger about the strengths of the defense he's played on this year, and he keeps it simple.
"Speed," he said. "Speed. Speed."
In fact, he's even offering advice to Michigan's offensive unit coming into this one. Attempting to attack the perimeter of the South Carolina defense is, in his words: "Not a good option at all."
"Running east-west is hard," Swearinger said. "We love teams that try to run east-west. It'd be your best bet to try to run it right at us."
Wherever Robinson runs, the Gamecocks will be aware of him, Swearinger said. They've watched him on tape in every situation, in multiple games.
In fact, he went so far as to say the Gamecocks insert different personnel groupings into the game based on whether Robinson is behind center or somewhere else. Swearinger insists South Carolina will not only be ready schematically, but from a motivational standpoint as well.
"Oh yes, most definitely," Swearinger said. "The media is talking
it gives us an edge. It gives us a little boost. We start playing and the nation is watching. It will be a challenge for us, and we'll be ready.
"It's not hard, but you've got to be curious at all times. Whenever 16 is on the field, we'll be notifying. Whether he's at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, we'll always have an eye on him."
Meanwhile, he noted, redshirt junior quarterback Devin Gardner isn't in for any picnic.
"He's very athletic," the Gamecocks senior said of Gardner. "He's a guy who can move around in the pocket and get out of trouble. We think it's going to be a challenge for him to run away from No. 7 [Clowney] and No. 98 [senior defensive end Devin Taylor], No. 70 [senior defensive tackle Byron Jerideau] and No. 99 [sophomore defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles]. It's going to be a challenge for him to play against that front."
That front, along with South Carolina's linebackers, gets most of the glory when it comes to talking about the Gamecocks' defense. The talk doesn't get old to a member of the secondary, but Swearinger still throws in a little not-so-fast commentary.
"I wouldn't say we get tired of it - that's what we're known for here," he said. "But when you cut on the film, you also see there are a lot of cover sacks. It goes both ways. We work together. Sometimes the defensive line just gets back there so fast, we get an interception, and sometimes we're just locking up receivers and the quarterback has got to hold onto the ball."
And whether it's Robinson and Michigan, or an SEC rival, Swearinger says it's another chance to be seen.
"Any time you play on national television, it's a statement game for us," he said. "Being the opponent that Michigan is, it really doesn't matter. Any time we can go out there and play on ESPN against any opponent and in front of fans, it's a statement game."
Swearinger also believes the Gamecocks could easily be playing on a much bigger stage. With road losses at LSU and Florida, they were not far from a hotter spotlight.
"Oh yes. Oh yes," he said. "This year and last year, that one little play, that one little game, gets us in that big dance. I'm pretty sure the juniors for next year will get over that little hump, and get us in the SEC championship game."
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