COLUMBIA, S.C. — The four defensive ends listed on the South Carolina two-deep depth chart have combined to start six games for the Gamecocks.
Dante Sawyer, a senior, made all four of his starts in 2015, after spending his freshman season at the junior college level. Keir Thomas started twice last season as a true freshman. The duo has also combined for 5.5 career sacks.
On the opposite side, at the hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker “Buck” position, are sophomore D.J. Wonnum and redshirt sophomore Daniel Fennell. Wonnum, who backed up last year’s team leader in sacks, Darius English, appeared in all 13 games. Fennell played in six.
To say the Gamecocks are inexperienced on the edge would be a bit of an understatement. And coach Will Muschamp certainly doesn’t need the reminder.
Also on the end
The position may be thin on experienced depth, but there is some upside, though it will need to be tapped in a hurry.
Redshirt sophomore Shameik Blackshear was a highly regarded recruit, but a combination of overzealous expectations, off-the-field issues and injuries have prevented him from making the type of impact many Gamecock fans hoped for when he committed out of Bluffton (S.C.) High School.
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For much of the last 12 months or so, Muschamp has relayed a positive message about Blackshear and his recovery from a gunshot wound suffered in December of 2015. This preseason could be an indication of just how far he’s come.
One-time Alabama commitment Aaron Sterling profiles as a defensive end, but the 2017 signee might be a year away from impact. Hopefully, Muschamp will be able to provide some more clarity during his appearance at SEC Media Days on Thursday.
M.J. Webb enrolled in January as a 4-star defensive end, according to the 247Sports composite, but he lined up primarily as a tackle during the Garnet & Black spring game.
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Beyond the twosome on the depth chart, there could be a few more options for South Carolina at the Buck position, including senior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams, who saw plenty of time at the position during the spring game.
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Redshirt freshman Griffin Gentry, a former defensive end, was moved to the position at the end of spring practice.
As many as three of the 2017 signees might have a shot to log snaps at the position: Brad Johnson, Davonne Bowen and Damani Staley.
There’s a lot to like about the potential options at this position, especially with Johnson and Bowen. Both have the tools that could make the impact performers, but it’s up to Muschamp & Co. to figure out where and when they’re ready to be called upon for help.