Oct. 27, 2003
By Patrick T. Walsh, USC Sports Information
A two-sport star in high school, Deandre’ Eiland came to Carolina hoping to be able to continue competing in two sports. What he didn’t realize was that both sports, football and track, would be so successful. This season, the senior from Tupelo, Miss., has stepped up as a leader on the football field and is ready to prove to the Southeastern Conference that the Gamecocks are not to be taken lightly.
“My expectations, are that we want to come out and make our presence felt,” said Eiland. “As a group, our defensive backs want to try to stop the pass first and then try to get the turnover. Most teams go out and talk about all the turnovers they try to get, but first you have to stop the pass before you can get the turnovers.”
To be successful at Carolina, the Gamecocks must run through the gauntlet that is their schedule. Year in and year out, Carolina faces some of the toughest teams in the nation and 2003 is no exception to this rule. And there are no guaranteed wins with a schedule as tough as USC’s.
“We’ve played some good teams this year,” Eiland said. “Any Southeastern Conference team is going to be a challenge and you have to take each game like it is going to be the last. You’ve got to go out there and give it your all on the field. We don’t have an easy SEC opponent because that doesn’t exist. This conference is so tough that any one of the other 11 teams could beat you on any day. There’s even more hype when we play Clemson. It’s all about pride.”
Coming off a 5-7 record in 2002, the returning players learned from their past and became a wealth of knowledge and experience for the newcomers on what to and not to do. That learning experience has helped Carolina be successful thus far this season.
“Last year was a big learning experience and I think we have grown from that experience,” said Eiland. “We missed a couple of plays last year that we should have had, both on offense and on defense. You go through the season building off the week before and you can’t just go back and start from scratch in the middle of the season. We kept trying to build off miscues, thinking we would fix them.”
In his final year at Carolina, Eiland has stepped up into a leadership role in 2003, but has had stiff competition for playing time. With the wealth of talent Carolina has at cornerback, the group will only get better as the season progresses and that has fostered an atmosphere of respect and learning from one another.
“I am not one that goes out there and yells a lot; I just like to set a positive example,” said Eiland. “I go out there and give my best on every play, whether it is in a game or in practice. If someone makes a mistake, I just try to help show them what they did wrong so they can learn from their mistakes. The younger players really respect some of the seasoned veterans like me, Dunta [Robinson], and Teddy [Crawford]. They give us their respect, especially on the field, but at the same time, they go out there and give the same effort on the field that the older guys are giving. They go out there and play hard and that’s something we’re proud of as cornerbacks. We are like a family – everyone really respects each other.”
Eiland and his teammates are primed and ready for all opponents that come into Williams-Brice Stadium and meet up with the Gamecocks in one of the best atmospheres for college football.
“Williams-Brice is one of the top places to play in our conference, especially when the crowd gets going,” said Eiland. “It has to be tough on the opposition because it can get very loud here. When we run out of that tunnel to the 2001 fanfare, it’s an experience. You run out with 82,000-plus fans screaming and it gets you pumped up and ready. You don’t want to let anyone – the fans, the coaches, or your teammates – down.”