Replacing Clowney: Gamecocks' DL remains strong
It’s always an annual challenge trying to replace an impact player, but in the SEC, coaches are paid to recruit and develop the next standout athlete in fear of the impending hot seat should seasons turn sour.
Over a two-week period, we’ll take a look at a key player loss for each program in the conference and break down that position’s potential replacements. Rest assured, a few of these guys will be household names by season’s end.
- TODAY: South Carolina
- Thursday: Arkansas
- Friday: Georgia
- Saturday: Ole Miss
- Sunday: Kentucky
- Monday: Texas A&M
- Tuesday: Vanderbilt
- Aug. 13: Alabama
- Aug. 14: Florida
- Aug. 15: Missouri
- Aug. 16: Mississippi St.
- Aug. 17: Tennessee
- Aug. 18: LSU
Was there any player in the SEC more important to his defense than Jadeveon Clowney the last three seasons in Columbia, S.C.? For defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward, replacing his impact from a game plan perspective won’t be possible as a next generation talent, but there’s a couple players up front he expects to have increased roles as rotational pass rushers this fall.
In terms of numbers, Clowney underachieved as a junior following an All-SEC season, but the respect he commanded from consistent double teams and opponents scheming against his prolific stature is worth noting.
Relative unknowns Darius English, an under-recruited redshirt sophomore, and Abu Lamin, South Carolina’s crown JUCO jewel, are poised to produce following impressive performances during spring practice.
It’s unrealistic for defensive line coach Deke Adams to expect a double-digit sack total from either player, but the potential’s there. English fills the gaping hole off the edge left by the Houston Texans’ No. 1 overall pick while Lamin will likely play inside on third down.
English is finally at an ideal SEC playing weight after putting on 20 pounds during the offseason and won’t be pushed around like he was after arriving on campus in 2012 as a lanky defensive end out of Georgia. English is still raw, but his measurables — 6-foot-7, 250 pounds — are coveted by every SEC defensive coordinator.
Lamin was the 16th-best JUCO player in the country last season and signed with South Carolina in December. Lamin will be in the mix early in the season and looks a lot like former Gamecock run-stopper and sack artist Melvin Ingram on film.
Shortly after South Carolina put the finishes touches on a Capital One Bowl victory last season, a caller on a local radio show in South Carolina boldly stated that the Gamecocks’ defensive front could be stronger without Clowney’s services.
It sounded ridiculous at the time, but there’s some truth to it.
The progression of Gerald Dixon along with English and Lamin’s expected impact gives the Gamecocks a more well-rounded group with less of a focus on one individual player in Ward’s 4-3 scheme that will feature more 3-4 looks.