Spring Preview: Newcomers
A South Carolina football legacy, Kelcy Quarles committed to South Carolina in December 2008 -- spring practice 2011 Quarles will finally make his debut in a South Carolina uniform, and of the four newcomers he brings the most hype with him.
Quarles starts spring camp listed at 6-foot-3, 271-pounds and as the back-up to Aldrick Fordham at one of the defensive tackle positions. While Fordham is in his third year in the program and senior Melvin Ingram will be a factor at tackle and defensive end, some believe Quarles will be listed as a starter alongside Travian Robertson before the Gamecocks' season opener against ECU in Charlotte.
While the fact he spent a year in prep school has probably allowed Quarles to be overshadowed by other 2011 signees like Jadeveon Clowney and Phillip Dukes, Quarles will have the chance to make an immediate impact. Some believe his year in prep school may be one of the best things to happen to him football-wise. Quarles reported to South Carolina in outstanding condition and with a willingness to work, according to sources within the program.
While Scout.com's Miller Safrit was hard on the former Army All-American in his final evaluation of Quarles out of high school, after seeing Quarles in prep school, Safrit contended that in his opinion Quarles was the top prep school player in the country and warranted consideration for five-star status. USC assistant head coach in charge of the defense Ellis Johnson has heaped high praise on Quarles in various radio interviews as well.
So the hype and expectation is there, but what should really be expected out of Quarles? The former Greenwood standout is probably going to have to learn to play lower and will need to continue to add weight in the summer workout program. He's also likely to take a few workouts to get used to the intense but productive practices of defensive line coach Brad Lawing. But Quarles brings all the tools to be a top defensive tackle in this league and with a season of prep school under his belt, I expect him to start to show that almost immediately this spring.
While the word "hype" is best connected with Quarles, the word "need" seems to work best in connection with Kaleb Broome. The Gamecocks need
Broome to be the player they think he can be, and in a relatively fast time period, too.
Broome is listed on the pre-spring depth chart as the back-up to redshirt freshman Cody Gibson at right tackle but while Gibson has reportedly shown a lot of promise, make no mistake that Broome was brought in to try and win that job. Broome, who played for Aiken HS (S.C.) originally, signed with South Carolina in December after two seasons at Georgia Military. His second season he was named a JUCO All-American.
South Carolina reportedly loved Broome's combination of size and athleticism. While returning start Kyle Nunn will be penciled in as a starter at one tackle spot, Broome will be given every opportunity to develop into the starter opposite him. Many times JUCO players take a year in the system to gel with their surroundings before having a big senior season. Broome will be counted on to play in his first season or else the redshirt freshman Gibson or freshman Brandon Shell will likely be forced into the starting line-ups before they're given the proper amount of time to develop.
While Broome will probably have his share of mistakes early in spring, he brings the experience, physicality and nasty attitude that South Carolina needed to add to its offensive tackle spot.
Former Northside (Warner Robins, Ga.) standout Brison Williams was the top cornerback in the Gamecocks' camp in the summer of 2009 when he impressed the staff with his confidence, physicality at the point of attack and overall coverage ability. After spending a season in prep school, Williams will bring all that plus some added weight to the Gamecocks' boundary safety position this spring where he is currently listed as third-string behind DeVonte Holloman and Corey Addison.
While Williams played mostly cornerback in high school, he made the transition to full-time safety at Fork Union and excelled. He's a big-hitter who should fit in well at the position. Williams has overall good instincts at the position but will obviously have to continue working on his technique.
While there will be many players in contention for the spot by the fall, there are back-up positions to be had in the secondary. With Akeem Auguste moving back to cornerback, it almost assures D.J. Swearinger will stay at the free (or field) safety spot. That means Williams' direct competition for the back-up spot in the spring will likely just be Addison while highly regarded freshmen Sheldon Royster and Kadetrix Marcus will enter the conversation at both safety spots in the fall.
Williams' best bet for getting on the field in the fall will be to establish himself as a fearless hitter early and pass Addison in the spring before the freshmen arrive.
The biggest unknown of the Gamecocks' newcomers is Martay Mattox, who will be making the transition from high school quarterback to college cornerback at least according to how he is listed on the pre-spring depth chart (fourth-string behind Stephon Gilmore, Cadarious Sanders and Victor Hampton).
Mattox is a natural leader who helped turn around the Clarke Central program and had a strong senior season despite battling through a thumb injury. Mattox has been in the defensive back meetings and is listed as a cornerback but there's still a chance he could get a look at quarterback, as Spurrier is intrigued with what he brings to the table, according to former recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer.
Mattox is a prospect who secondary coach Lorenzo Ward likes a great deal and who brings a lot of natural potential and athleticism. It's not likely that he makes an immediate impact but with some bodies in front of him, Mattox should have the opportunity to develop at his own rate.