SDS talent evaluators Jon Cooper and Brad Crawford spent several months breaking down last year’s highlights, incoming talent and projected 2014 impact following spring practice to compile a list of the SEC’s Top 100 players heading into fall. Athletes were selected by position then ranked overall counting down to No. 1.
Stick with SDS throughout summer and get in on the action using the hashtag #SDSTop100 as we unveil a new player daily leading up to opening night on Aug. 28.
95. JT Surratt, Sr., DT, South Carolina
Despite the loss of Jadeveon Clowney, Chaz Sutton and Kelcy Quarles who accounted for 15.5 of the Gamecocks’ 25 total sacks last season, South Carolina’s in good hands in the trenches with Surratt, Phillip Dukes and heavily-recruited JUCO newcomer Abu Lamin.
Surratt’s the lone returning starter in the front four and is thirty pounds heavier than former Gamecock All-American defensive tackle Melvin Ingram, a comparable talent who became a vocal leader in his final season. Surratt uses a bullrush approach like Ingram to overpower the opposition at the line of scrimmage. Ingram’s strength and quickness led to a first-round selection in 2012, but Surratt’s upside isn’t as high.
Surratt’s ability to lead an inexperienced defensive line this season is just as important as his production. Outside rushers Darius English and Gerald Dixon will make plays as returning contributors, but it’s Surratt we’re projecting as South Carolina’s player to watch up front as the Gamecocks transition into more 3-4 alignments this season.
2013 statistics: 33 tackles, 4 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 2 QBH
2014 projection: 39 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 QBH