As South Carolina defensive line coach Brad Lawing will tell you, there's a lot more to his unit's success than its sack numbers.
But it's undeniable how impressive the Gamecocks have been in that department in their first 11 games.
South Carolina is tied for third in the country with 36 sacks, behind Florida State (41) and Boise State (39).
"That means a lot," said senior tackle Ladi Ajiboye, who has two of the sacks. "We've stepped up. We've stepped up to the plate. We've got a couple more games. We'll continue to try and get our stats up and play well."
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A year ago, USC had a total of 28 sacks in 13 games. And Eric Norwood, the school's all-time sacks leader, had 111/2of the team's sacks. End Cliff Matthews added 10.
This year, it's been a different story entirely.
Matthews, a senior slowed by a shoulder brace, has only 31/2 sacks. They're spread evenly through the defense - and especially through a defensive line that has steadily progressed throughout the fall.
The line has 26 of the team's 36 sacks, with sophomore Devin Taylor (71/2) and junior Melvin Ingram (eight) leading the way.
"It's a good thing for all of us," Taylor said, "because we're doing it together instead of just one person."
Lawing said he's not overly surprised by Ingram's success. He said it was just a matter of time for a player that had played linebacker and fullback before settling on the D-line. Even now, Lawing moves Ingram from end to tackle, depending on the size of the opponent's line.
"He may be the best athlete, as far as being able to do things, on our team," Lawing said. "And he's still learning. He still doesn't use his hands like he should. He hasn't been a lineman that long."
Matthews has steadily improved since finally ridding himself of the brace that kept him from full usage of his arms.
Taylor arrived as a 6-7 string bean, but he's continued to fill out - and he 's turning into a force. Taylor is still quick enough to drop into coverage - as noted by his pick six against Tennessee, an interception that came 10 yards from the line of scrimmage - but he's physical enough to get into the backfield.
Defensive head coach Ellis Johnson said Taylor is learning when to "cut loose" and rush the quarterback, and when to hang back in pursuit of the run. He's growing up, in other words.
"I feel smarter, more relaxed," Taylor said. "I'm comfortable with the game and everything. I can play fast without having to look over to the sideline for things. It's a lot easier."
Early in the year, Johnson expressed concern about the line's ability to get pressure, especially in one-on-one matchups. But it's an area that's steadily improved this season.
A seven-sack day against Alabama and Greg McElroy was a big statement to make. So was the fact that Alabama basically abandoned its running game, with Heisman winner Mark Ingram and future Heisman hopeful Trent Richardson.
USC is one of seven teams in the country allowing fewer than 100 yards a game. The line has been a big part of that, as well.
"As time's gone on, Brad's done a super job with them," Johnson said. "There's some natural ability there, but I think they've finally realized it's more experience and game reps. They're doing things in pass situations and not just against the run."
The challenge this week is obvious. Clemson has given up just 13 sacks this season.
"That's a heck of a number this late in the season," Lawing said.
The Tigers protect well and use an offense that quickly gets the ball out of the quarterback's hand. That's why Lawing wants to emphasize more than just sacks. Causing Kyle Parker to get flustered and shift around is nearly as positive for USC as Parker on the ground.
Cornerbacks coach Lorenzo Ward said sophomore Stephon Gilmore (concussion) should be cleared by the middle of the week and he would play Saturday.
Gilmore went through some light conditioning Monday. Johnson said he came out of the Troy game as more of a precaution than anything.
Junior Marty Markett (knee) is a bit more iffy, but an MRI exam Sunday showed no structural damage. There's still a good chance he plays Saturday, Ward said.
Sophomore Alshon Jeffery was named a Biletnikoff finalist Monday, along with Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon and Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles. With 1,210 yards in 11 games, Jeffery set the school's single-season record this past weekend. After running for 102 yards and three touchdowns (on just seven carries), freshman Marcus Lattimore was named the SEC's freshman of the week for the second straight week. With 1,066 yards, Lattimore is USC's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2000.