The key to a successful season for the South Carolina defense, in part, lies with the production of defensive tackles Ulric Jones and Taylor Stallworth.
That’s according to Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp, also is looking for answers at end. Jones and Stallworth, both of whom are returning starters, are listed on the official two-deep depth chart ahead of sophomore Kobe Smith.
There’s a handful of potential reserves for Muschamp and defensive line coach Lance Thompson to choose from, including former 4-star defensive end recruit M.J. Webb, who primarily lined up at tackle during the spring game in April.
Sophomore Keir Thomas logged snaps as a tackle in 2016, but he played end during the spring game and is listed as the backup to Dante Sawyer on the depth chart, which leaves Aaron Thompson and Javon Kinlaw as the only other scholarship options.
Thompson, a redshirt freshman, played against Mississippi State last season prior to a sustaining a season-ending ankle injury. Kinlaw spent 2016 at Jones County Junior College in Mississippi, but he’ll have four years to play three seasons at South Carolina.
South Carolina stats
The most experienced player in the group is Stallworth, who has started 18 of the 30 games during his career. A 13-game starter a season ago, he made 41 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and a quarterback sack.
Jones, a JUCO product, played in every game last season, his first on the field for the Gamecocks. He made eight starts and was credited with 42 tackles to go along with a pair of blocked field goal attempts.
Because he could wind up playing both inside and outside this fall, we’ll count Thomas in this group. As a freshman, he started two of the 13 games he appeared in, logging 24 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and a pair of sacks.
Smith, who enrolled in January of 2016, made 4 tackles over 11 games.