COLUMBIA, S.C. - The South Carolina Gamecocks are speeding toward the start of the 2007 college football season with high hopes, especially for the team's defense.
At the center of that defense sit Thomson's twins - Jasper and Casper Brinkley.
And they are just fine with that spotlight.
"That's something we've been dealing with since we've been in high school," said Casper. "We just have to go out and play hard every play."
This year, Casper (6-foot-2, 257 lbs.) joins his brother in the defensive backfield, returning to his natural linebacker position. He will line up to the right of Jasper this season.
"I'm kind of comfortable now that I know what (the coaches) expect," Casper said.
"It's just a little different knowing he's beside me instead of in front of me," Jasper said. "If I think of something I'm going to let him know."
Together, the brothers hope to build on what was a strong 2006 showing.
Last season, Jasper led South Carolina with 85 solo tackles, 107 total tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss en route to a first-team, All-SEC selection at middle linebacker. From his defensive end position, Casper recorded 44 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
With his breakthrough 2006 season, Jasper (6-foot-2, 262 lbs.) is being mentioned as a potential first-round draft pick in next year's NFL Draft. He's on several watch lists, including the Bronko Nagurski (best defensive player) and Butkus (best linebacker) awards.
Jasper's also been featured on the cover of several magazines, including the South Carolina edition of Athlon Sports' preseason football magazine and the University of South Carolina football media guide. At nfldraftscout.com, Jasper is slated to be picked in one of the top two rounds.
"I'm proud of him," Casper said. "That's big to be on the cover of a magazine."
Still, the 22-year-old Brinkleys know it's all about what happens on the field each Saturday.
"I'm happy for him that he got all those accolades, but at the end of the day you've got to go to work," Casper said. "You can't focus on that now. You have to focus on the season, which I know he will do."
Focusing on the game has been part of the brothers' life for years. In 2002, the pair anchored Thomson's defense in a 15-0 state championship season. The Brinkleys later led Georgia Military to the NJCAA 2005 championship game, before transferring to USC.
Jasper enrolled at South Carolina in January 2006 and Casper joined him later that summer. It took little time for the Brinkleys to learn the system and begin making names for themselves around the SEC.
"The Brinkley boys were crucial for us last year as far as tackles," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said. "They're wonderful young men. They go to class. They go to all the workouts. They just do everything you ask them to do. That hasn't always been the case around here."
Now, the Brinkleys feel they have a lot to offer to South Carolina in what could be their last time playing on the same team.
They are prepared for a future that could have them playing for two different NFL teams next year.
For a decade, they've played on the same defense on the same recreation, high school, junior college and Southeastern Conference teams together.
"As long as we got our cell phones," Casper said, "it really won't make a difference."