Despite the youth, Gamecocks' 'D' rolling along

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

As the injuries mount for South Carolina, the Gamecocks just keep getting younger on defense.

Two more true freshmen are in line to play expanded roles this Saturday against South Carolina State (ESPN Classic, 7 p.m. ET).

Aldrick Fordham is listed second-team on the depth chart at defensive tackle. With Travian Robertson lost for the season with a torn ACL, the only healthy tackles the Gamecocks have right now are Ladi Ajiboye, Melvin Ingram and Nathan Pepper. It’s hard to call Pepper completely healthy. He’s been battling knee and ankle problems.

Also, DeMario Jeffery is backing up Antonio Allen at spur linebacker. Jeffery played well in the Ole Miss win after Allen missed the game with a concussion.

Counting Fordham and Jeffery, the Gamecocks have seven freshmen in their two-deep on defense. Of their top 22 defenders listed on the two-deep, 13 are either freshmen or sophomores.

It’s pretty obvious that Ellis Johnson, the assistant head coach for the defense, and his entire defensive staff are doing an excellent job when you look at all the younger players on the field. The Gamecocks are ranked fourth in the SEC and 13th nationally in total defense, and they lead the league with 14 sacks.

Against Ole Miss, their third-down defense was exceptional. They held the Rebels to 1-of-13 on third down.

The other thing this influx of young talent tells you is that the Gamecocks have upped the ante on the recruiting trail. The Gamecocks were ranked 12th nationally in recruiting last year, Shane Beamer’s first as recruiting coordinator, and have really zeroed in on keeping the best players in the state at home.