Gamecock Anthem takes a look at five questions that were answered this spring. In a past article, we…
Post-spring depth chart: Defensive line
1. Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney – Taylor was undoubtedly an early round NFL draft pick had he decided to come out last season. With Melvin Ingram's unbelievable season and the arrival of Jadeveon Clowney, the quiet kid from Beaufort quietly had a solid season with 42 tackles and six sacks. The Gamecock defensive ends wreaked havoc on offensive tackles all season last year and Taylor will be doing the same again this season.
Clowney was a man among boys his entire high school career, and in his first year at Carolina he was a bigger man among men. Clowney officially burst onto the scene when he set up Ingram's game-winning touchdown against Georgia in his first SEC game after coming through the line untouched and slinging Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray around like a rag doll, forcing a fumble that Ingram scooped up and walked into the end zone. Clowney finished the season with 36 tackles and eight sacks, earning him multiple Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American honors. Not bad for a kid that didn't know what he was doing most of the time. With a spring under his belt and another summer soon to begin, Clowney and Taylor will give opposing offensive coordinators and quarterbacks nightmares all season.
2. Chaz Sutton and Aldrick Fordham – Sutton arrived on campus in 2009 after spending a year at Fork Union Military College and was expected to make some noise. After battling some injury issues, Sutton's playing time has progressively gone up as he appeared in all 13 games last season. His most memorable moment was the 2010 contest against Troy when he intercepted a pass and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown at the end of the first half. Sutton should provide a solid back-up this season.
Fordham, like Sutton, has seen his playing time increase over the course of his career. Carolina was forced to remove the redshirt from Fordham in his freshman year because of injuries. Fordham has spent most of his career on special teams with limited action on the defensive line, but logged six starts last season and played in all but one game. Fordham and Sutton will provide the Gamecocks with the depth they need at the end position. Look for Gerald Dixon to make a little bit of noise as well after redshirting last season.
Freshman most likely to make an impact:
Darius English – Devin Taylor in the making? You don't want attach the expectations of becoming the next great player on a kid that hasn't stepped foot on campus, but the similarities are there. English is not quite as tall as Taylor coming in at 6'6, but the quickness and freakish ability is there. He was the 5A defensive player of the year in the state of Georgia for a reason. English and Jhaustin Thomas would both be better suited to take a redshirt and get in the weight room with the depth at the position, but English will turn some heads in summer practices and will be a great addition to the defensive end position in the coming years.
1. Kelcy Quarles and Byron Jerideau – With Travian Robertson and Ingram gone, the focus on the defensive line will be the interior. Quarles enters his sophomore year after a productive first season on campus. Quarles did not register a sack, but had 28 tackles and four quarterback hurries. That was enough to earn him several second and third team freshman honors. Quarles can be a force in the middle and has the strength to clog up the middle and force running backs to bounce outside into the waiting arms of Clowney and Taylor.
Speaking of clogging up the middle, that's what Jerideau does best. Jerideau struggled with conditioning issues during his first season on campus and weight issues entering the spring last season, but worked hard to trim weight to get into football form at the beginning of the season. Jerideau played in every game last season, even some on the offensive line against Mississippi State. Now back on the defensive line at 316 pounds, Jerideau is finally going to get his shot in his final season in Columbia.
2. J.T. Surratt and Gerald Dixon, Jr. – The race for the back-up roles are wide open between Surratt, Dixon, Jr. and Phillip Dukes. Dixon, Jr. has been impressive through the spring and will enter the fall as the primary back-up behind Quarles and Jerideau. He has the athletic ability to get off the ball quick and beat the offensive linemen to the point of attack.
Surratt has the most experience entering his third year on campus, but has only played in three games. Surratt sat out his freshman year with a shoulder injury and will enter the season as a redshirt sophomore. He has the size to play the tackle position, but has to prove himself. Dukes could push Surratt for that spot on the roster.
Freshman most likely to make an impact:
Carlos Hood – Hood was the only defensive tackle to sign with the Gamecocks. Hood has the frame to play defensive tackle in the SEC, but has to get stronger and put on some weight. At 265 pounds he is not ready to come in and immediately make an impact. It looks like Hood will take the redshirt route, making it extremely important for the five returning tackles to remain healthy.
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