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Sept. 22, 2003

by Brandon Holtz, USC Sports Information

Fresh off his first career start, a game in which he recorded four tackles and had a fumble recovery, redshirt junior defensive end Jason Capers is still grasping the understanding of how to play on the defensive side of the ball. A tight end in high school, Capers came to USC as an offensive player but quickly learned things are different at the collegiate level.

“I never played defense in high school,” said Capers. “When I came here in January of 2000, I played tight end during the spring and a little bit during the summer doing pass catching drills. Then I switched to defense and, Coach (Charlie) Strong (then the defensive coordinator, now at Florida) brought me to that side of the ball . I was red-shirted that year because I didn’t know too much about defense and had a lot to learn.”

Now Capers is part of a new revamped 4-3 defensive that has shown promise in the opening games of the season. Capers and his fellow defensive ends were all smiles upon hearing the news of the switch from the previous 3-3-5.

“For the ends, the new alignment allows us to make more plays,” said Capers. “You have George (Gause) and Moe (Thompson) and the 4-3 allows the ends to attack more and presents more opportunities to make plays.”

Being a defensive end is not just about rushing the quarterback.

“You have to play the run,” said Capers. “A lot of plays in the SEC cut back so you have to contain.”

Especially in the Southeastern Conference, the premier collegiate football league, Capers says a defensive end must “have a tough mentality and intelligence also.”

Capers is a native of Hartsville, S.C., a town which has produced former USC standouts such as Randy Wheeler and Lee Wiggins. Growing up a Gamecock fan Capers always dreamed of playing for the Garnet and Black. Each home game he gets to run out onto Williams-Brice and fulfill that childhood dream.”

“I get a rush from playing at home,” said Capers. “I have been a Gamecock fan since I was a child. I get excited.”

When Head Coach Lou Holtz came to Hartsville for an in-home visit the whole town came to catch a glimpse of the coaching legend only to miss him. “He went to Albert Haynesworth’s (current member of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans) house first and then came to mine. He stayed at my house for about 30 minutes and word got out. About ten minutes after he left there were a bunch of people in my yard asking where Coach Holtz was, but he had already left.”

Playing for Coach Holtz is something Capers enjoys, “It is fun, sometimes he gets on you, but he is a good guy and a good coach. He gets excited.”

Capers lists the 2001 Outback Bowl as his greatest moment at South Carolina, but when it comes to his biggest rival you don’t have to look further then 140 miles northwest of Columbia.

“Clemson games are huge,” said Capers. “They are the in-state rival and got the best of us last year. Our goal is to get them this year.”

After his impressive showing during spring practice and continued solid play during this young season, Capers is making the coaching staff who moved him to defense look good.