Projecting the stats and standouts of South Carolina's new DL
I can only imagine the look on Steve Spurrier’s face when the ink dried on Marquavius Lewis’ LOI a week before Christmas last season.
The Head Ball Coach’s long-awaited gift came in the form of the nation’s top-rated JUCO pass rusher, a much-needed piece to the 2015 puzzle if South Carolina was going to have any shot at respectability in the Eastern Division.
What can we expect out of Lewis along with a host of other newcomers along the defensive front for the Gamecocks?
Lewis stepped on campus in January and earned a starting nod quickly during the spring, earning MVP honors on defense as the team’s most consistent player off the edge.
Considering he’s going to play the majority of snaps in Jon Hoke’s 4-3 base in both rushing and passing situations, it’s not a stretch to project at least seven sacks from the Greenwood, S.C. native — that would equal half of the Gamecocks’ production as a team last season.
South Carolina’s coaching staff doesn’t have time to take it easy with Lewis, who has three years to play two in terms of eligibility, like they do freshman arrivals Shameik Blackshear and Quandeski Whitlow.
Lewis was recruited to fill an obvious hole left by Jadeveon Clowney, that several players tried but didn’t fix last season.
We projected South Carolina’s initial fall depth chart in May based on what transpired during the spring and I don’t think Lewis will be the only newcomer who takes over a returning defender’s job in the starting lineup.
Summer enrollee Dante Sawyer, a four-star JUCO signee, has made it known that he’s coming straight for Gerald Dixon’s snaps at the opposite defensive end spot.
“Call me cocky, conceited, full of myself or whatever u wanna call it but I will be the best defensive end come next year,” Sawyer published on Twitter in April.
Much of the problem last fall was the front four’s lack of attentiveness at the snap. The Gamecocks were often caught guessing between run or pass, thus rarely exploding off the ball.
In the SEC against some of college football’s best offensive lines, uncertainty spells doom.
The reinforcements shouldn’t have that problem this fall. They get the luxury of learning Jon Hoke’s revised system at the same pace as South Carolina’s returning players and most are on equal footing, if not better, athletically.
Darius English is one of several veterans those close to the program are waiting to emerge into the dynamic pass-rush threat he showed in Georgia coming out of high school. Perhaps Lewis will bring out the best in English who faces an uphill climb for playing time with the arrival of Ulric Jones and Dexter Wideman in the trenches as well.
Projecting statistical output for notable newcomers along South Carolina’s DL
- Marquavius Lewis: 51 tackles, 7 sacks
- Dante Sawyer: 39 tackles, 4.5 sacks
- Dexter Wideman: 22 tackles, 2 sacks