The Lou Holtz era of Gamecock football is often overlooked, but it cannot be understated how important it was for this program. The players that donned the garnet and black from 1999-2004 helped elevate South Carolina from a SEC doormat to a team opponents could no longer overlook. Coach Holtz spent six seasons as the Gamecocks head man and saw his fair share of talent roll through Columbia.
Top Gamecock Defenders of the Lou Holtz Era
Most of the success from 2000-04 was built on the defensive side of the ball. The Gamecocks were very stout in that area and had multiple All-Americans and All-SEC performers. There are some players not on this list that deserve mentions as well. John Abraham and Ko Simpson both starred at South Carolina but only played one season under Coach Holtz. Linebacker Shannon Wadley was phenomenal during the 2000 season, but injuries kept him from reaching his full potential.
Cecil Caldwell – Defensive Tackle
The Newberry native blossomed during the Coach Holtz era after being mainly a role player in his first two seasons under Brad Scott. He combined for 21 tackles for loss and had 10 of his 15 career sacks during his junior and senior seasons. Caldwell teamed with Cleveland Pinkney to form a disruptive duo in the center of the Gamecocks defensive line during the 1999 and 2000 seasons. He ranks fifth and ninth respectively in tackles for loss and sacks in program history.
Dunta Robinson – Cornerback
After starting his career as a backup to future NFL corners Sheldon Brown and Andre Goodman, Robinson made his name as a junior. Robinson had four interceptions in the 2002 season and was a lockdown corner for the Gamecocks. He finished his career with 22 pass breaks ups and five interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. The Athens native went on to be drafted 10th overall in the 2004 NFL draft and played a decade in the league.
Langston Moore – Defensive Tackle
The nose guard from Charleston, SC was a mainstay along the defensive front for the Gamecocks between 2000 and 2002. Moore was a space-eater, occupying blocks and disrupting things along the interior of the line. Sporting News named him to their ALL-SEC and 3rd Team All-American lists after the 2002 season. Stats don’t always show the impact a defensive tackle has, but those who watched him play know just how much Moore meant to the Gamecocks’ defense.
Rashad Faison – Safety
The hybrid linebacker/safety position has become a staple of college defenses in recent years. In coordinator Charlie Strong’s 3-3-5 alignment, Faison was one of the first players to shine in that role for South Carolina. The Wauchula, FL native was a lightning bolt on defense. He struck hard and fast, always arriving with bad intentions. His ability to disrupt opposing offenses has rarely been matched in garnet and black. Faison was a tackling machine during the Holtz era, ranking eighth all-time in school history. He also had 27.5 tackles for loss and forced six fumbles during his career. The versatile safety has another eye-raising stat. He had two career carries on the offensive side of the ball, totaling 71 yards and scoring both times.
Kalimba Edwards – Defensive End / Linebacker
The East Point, GA native was a star at South Carolina. He was one of those players who made things happen sometimes merely due to his presence on the field. Edwards was an All-SEC and 3rd team All-American selection as both a defensive end and linebacker during his junior and senior seasons respectively. He had three sacks in the Gamecocks upset win over Ohio State in the 2001 Outback Bowl. Edwards was both big and versatile and had a knack for making big plays. He forced and recovered a combined seven fumbles and had 13.5 sacks for his career. His move to linebacker saw his numbers drop in terms of attacking behind the line of scrimmage. However, his range and instincts still allowed him to make an impact.
Sheldon Brown – Cornerback
If there is one area the Gamecocks have had the most success in finding and developing players, it is in the secondary. Brown may the best of all the talented defensive backs to come through Columbia. He teamed with the aforementioned Goodman to form one of the best cornerback tandems in the nation during the 2000 and 2001 seasons. The Lancaster, SC native was both a lockdown and cover man. In addition to a physical presence in the secondary. He grabbed two of his nine career interceptions in the 2001 win over rival Clemson. Like Edwards, Brown was selected to multiple All-SEC and All-American teams following his junior and senior seasons. Even in a secondary that had multiple players move on to the NFL, Brown stood out as the best.