Casper Brinkley does not mind taking advice from his younger brother.
For one thing, Brinkley is only a minute older than his identical twin. Secondly, Jasper Brinkley is as good a source as anyone on the subject of playing linebacker.
The Thomson (Ga.) twins were separated for one of the few times in 22 years last fall in their first season at South Carolina. Even then, the distance between them could be measured in yards: Jasper was an All-SEC pick at middle linebacker, while Casper tied for the team lead in sacks from his defensive end spot.
With Casper moving to strongside linebacker this year, the brothers are practically joined at the hip again. The two lined up side-by-side at the position for two seasons at Georgia Military College.
After a year in a three-point stance, Casper said he is happy for any pointers Jaspers throws his way.
"He's very helpful. I'm kind of young at playing linebacker. I really don't know everything," Casper said. "But he knows all the ins-and-outs. Basically, he just helps me right before the play every time."
Jasper Brinkley, whose 107 stops last season were more than twice as many as the Gamecocks' No. 2 tackler, helps his brother read the offensive guard's alignment for a clue as to which direction the play is headed.
"If they're leaning more forward, they might be fixing to chip up on you or come zone (block) up to you," Jasper said. "If they're like leaning to the left, he might pull. So you've got to be able to recognize that."
Though he played the position in junior college, Casper said he is essentially re-learning the position.
"The defense here is more advanced than the one at junior college," he said. "At junior college it was just simple. We blitzed just about every play."
Since switching from defensive end in the spring, Casper has observed that linebacker is more of a thinking man's position.
"You're basically like the quarterback of the defense. Plus, every play you've got to think, 'What can they run out of this formation? What do I got to check? Where do I got to fit in the defense?'" Casper said. "You have to know everything."
That is why it has been helpful to have his brother nearby during preseason camp. On several occasions before the ball was snapped, Casper said he heard a familiar voice yelling for him to get wider because a ball-carrier was coming his way.
Casper, whose seven sacks matched Eric Norwood in '06, also had 13.5 tackles for loss last season, one fewer than his brother's team-leading total.
One of the knocks on Casper in the spring was his pass coverage. While defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, who coaches the Gamecocks' linebackers, has been working with Casper on his pass drops, Casper could be back at end in some passing situations.
"He's been a defensive end that plays with outstanding effort and plays with good technique," Nix said. "He's doing that some at linebacker now, so we're going to be able to utilize him at both positions."
Casper said he learns something new about linebacker every day -- thanks in large part to his brother. Teammates every year since they were 9, the Brinkley brothers realize this could be their final season together.
"It's been real great playing with my brother. Everybody doesn't get the opportunity that we have," Jasper said. "We're just taking advantage of the opportunity that we have and just cherish the moments while they last because one day we're not going to be here on the same playing field."