Aldrick Fordham (Image from GamecockCentral.com)
By David Cloninger
Devin Taylor, first-team All-SEC and South Carolina's returning leader in tackles for loss.
Travian Robertson, fifth-year senior regarded as the rock of the entire defense.
Melvin Ingram, third in the SEC in sacks in 2010 and the Gamecocks' category leader.
Jadeveon Clowney, the nation's consensus No. 1 recruit, a can't-miss prospect born to be great.
"Those guys deserve all that hype," the other member of USC's vaunted defensive line said. "I'm still trying to make my way."
But would Aldrick Fordham want to be included in some of the publicity?
"Nah, I wouldn't," he fervently said.
Although he doesn't mind playing to the others' expectations. After two years of off-and-on playing time, Fordham figures it's his year to break out.
Tough job to do on a line stocked with stars, but he figures the opponents know about the rest of the D-line. Maybe they'll overlook him, which means open season.
"That's up to (defensive line coach Brad) Lawing, but I'm working to be that starter," said Fordham, who entered preseason camp as the starting defensive tackle beside Robertson (another budding star, high-school All-American Kelcy Quarles, is listed as Fordham's backup). "I just have to have a motor. I'm undersized, so I can't play as high up as other guys, so I have to be quicker than the other guys. I have a lot of opportunities."
Fordham has played in 20 games in his first two years, with 14 total tackles and a fumble recovery. He came in as a defensive end, but was a bit smaller than the prototypical SEC ends and was playing behind Cliff Matthews and Taylor anyway.
"My freshman year, I came in as an end, ended up moving to tackle," he said. "Sophomore year, played some end, ended up playing tackle again. I'm a junior and primarily a tackle, so I'm feeling real comfortable."
Lawing kept him at tackle, since end was taken for the near and foreseeable future, and Fordham stepped into the role that Ladi Ajiboye vacated. Fordham had a solid spring and summer, nothing that stood out, but Lawing has seen enough in the early days of preseason camp to think that this could be the year that Fordham really contributes.
"He was behind a lot of guys at first, and he just wasn't consistent," Lawing said. "But he's got the talent. He's got his weight to where he likes it and he's been learning the whole time. He could do big things this year."
After two years of putting on weight in an effort to get bigger and handle opposing offensive lineman, but figuring out the extra pounds left him lethargic and drained, Fordham is at 275 pounds. He's playing just a bit of end, but estimated he spends 90 percent of every practice at tackle, and is comfortable with his quickness, hands and energy.
"I'm feeling real comfortable," he said. "We're all just trying to work, do anything and everything for us to win. Whatever's the best way to get it, we'll be happy with it."
Fordham didn't want to offer any predictions and said he has no specific numbers he wants to hit, in terms of tackles or sacks. He just wants to do well and retain his starting spot.
Maybe then he'll be included in the listed group of stars. Maybe then.
"I don't think about all that stuff," Fordham said. "That's for others to decide. I just want to play well."
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