Spring football recap, storylines: USC defensive line

GoGamecocks staff reportsApril 30, 2013 

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7)

JEFF BLAKE — jblake@thestate.com

A review and recap of how South Carolina's defensive linemen fared this spring (the last in a series of positional reviews of the Gamecocks):

Top performers

Mason Harris, Phillip Dukes, Darius English

Spring awards

... Most improved defensive lineman: Phillip Dukes

... Freshman-Defense: Darius English

... Everyday Effort Award-Defense: Gerald Dixon Jr.

... Everyday Hustle Award-Defense: Kelcy Quarles

... Outstanding Weight Room-Defense : Chaz Sutton

... Rex Enright Defensive Player of the Spring: Mason Harris

... Outback Bowl – Big Play Players-Defense: Jadeveon Clowney

Projected depth chart

Defensive end
1-Chaz Sutton (RS Sr.)
2-Gerald Dixon (RS So.)

Defensive end
1-Jadeveon Clowney (Jr.)
2-Darius English (RS Fr.)
3-Mason Harris (RS So.)

Defensive tackle
1-J.T. Surratt (RS Jr.) - OR - Gerald Dixon Jr. (RS So.)
3-Deon Green (RS So.)

Defensive tackle
1-Kelcy Quarles (Jr.)
2-Phillip Dukes (RS So.)

What we learned

1. There should be no letdown on the defensive line

Jadeveon Clowney has 21 sacks in two seasons and says he wants to break Eric Norwood’s career mark (29). The hype surrounding Clowney in 2013 could be astronomical, but he will have plenty of help on the line. Chaz Sutton is starting as a senior and had 25 tackles and five sacks last year coming off the bench. Tackles Kelcy Quarles, J.T. Surratt and Gerald Dixon Jr. add size and experience to the middle.

2. Quarles is ready to take the mike as a vocal leader

The departures for D.J. Swearinger, Devin Taylor and a group of four senior linebackers led by Shaq Wilson have left a huge vocal void, but there are several players ready to take over that role. New first-year defensive line coach Deke Adams expects Kelcy Quarles to be one of those guys. Quarles has the makeup to be one of those leaders this season. He was credited with 38 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 11 games. His 17 career starts rank third on the team — behind offensive lineman AJ Cann and quarterback Connor Shaw.

Questions moving forward

1. Who will play alongside Quarles?

J.R. Surratt, a junior, has the most experience and started the spring at the top of the depth chart, but Gerald Dixon Jr. has made a strong argument for the job in the past month. Center Cody Waldrop called Dixon the toughest matchup on the interior defensive line thanks to his size (6-3, 318 pounds) and savvy. Phillip Dukes is a former four-star recruit.

2. Are there any signees who could play right away?

Coaches are high on all the defensive line signees: ends Devin Washington, Gerald Turner and Devante Covington; and tackle Kelsey Griffin. With the depth at those positions strong, odds are that all four of these players will redshirt. Washington could help right away as a pass rusher with a strong summer - if the need is there.

They said it

Jadeveon Clowney: “Spring is about learning the playbook, more than what you do. I learned a lot more during the spring than everybody thinks I did just because I wasn't out there. I'll be ready when the season comes.”

Clowney: “My goals are set very high. I want to break the sack record here, not jsut for a season but the career sack record, which is 29. I'm closing in on it. I want to break the sack record, make more tackles for loss and not necessarily when the Heisman. But if it's there, it's there.”

Deke Adams on Mason Harris and Darius English: “You really have to work on speed, work on hands, use the things that you have been given, use those different talents to make yourself better. Both of them right now their talent is speed, and we have to use that. When you get a big (offensive) tackle on the end, and he knows that there is a great chance that you can run around him, then he is shaking in his shoes.”

Kelcy Quarles: “I look at myself in those guys’ shoes. I looked up to Travian [Robertson] and Melvin [Ingram] and now it’s my turn to lead. I’m not just trying to be a vocal leader, I’m trying to do the right things on and off the field — going to class, coming out on the field and working hard every day no matter what is going on off the field. It’s the little things sometimes.”

Deke Adams on Quarles: “Kelcy is a guy that really wants to be good. He’s working his behind off, doing a lot of great things. He understands what we need him to be for this defense. I’m excited about him and how hungry he is, wanting to get better each day.”

Chaz Sutton: “I think I had a solid year, but I think I could have done some things better. There were a lot of missed opportunities. I had a lot of missed sacks and a lot of missed tackles for loss. Hopefully next year I can come back and make those plays instead of missing them.”

Lorenzo Ward on Sutton: “He’s an athletic guy, and he knows how to make plays. It’s his time to go out and show that he can be an every-down player. We’re expecting big things from him. I think he’s going to have a solid year.”

Gerald Dixon Jr. on playing with this brother: “It’s been a while since we’ve been on the field together, but this year we have a show for them.”

Gerald G. Dixon: “I sat out and got my head right. The only thing I had to do was get my body in shape to fit in the role I need to be in. I think I am going to be pretty good.”

Adams on the Dixons: “They are young, haven’t had a lot of reps at all. Gerald Jr., he is coming along, he has been banged up just a little bit. Gerald, we call him G, he’s coming along, too. He’s learning the defense. He’s learning where he fits in the defense, so he’s getting better.”

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