D-line losing a lot of stars: Replacing Sutton, Clowney, Quarles won’t be easy

jkendall@thestate.comDecember 21, 2013 

South Carolina defensive end Chaz Sutton (90)

TIM DOMINICK — tdominick@thestate.com

The next two weeks will be a farewell tour for Jadeveon Clowney.

Maybe the most famous South Carolina football player in history will take his final collegiate snaps on Jan. 1 against Wisconsin. That’s the headline for most South Carolina fans, but for Gamecocks defensive line coach Deke Adams it’s the whole story that causes more anxiety.

Not only will the Capital One Bowl be Clowney’s final game, but it also will be the last game for All-American defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles and starting defensive end Chaz Sutton. In what will be his second year at the school, Adams will be rebuilding a unit that for years has served as the foundation of the Gamecocks’ defensive success.

For now, Adams is trying to keep the focus on the final game of the 2013 season.

“We are going to go down, we’re going to enjoy our time down there, and we’re going to get ready to play Wisconsin,” he said.

He’s peeked ahead, though, more than peeked actually. Adams spent some of South Carolina’s final week of practice in Columbia experimenting with position changes along the defensive line.

“We have moved a couple guys around. We will wait and see what happens with that. I can’t even really name any names right now because it’s wide open,” he said. “You start looking at guys now and going into the spring. Hopefully, by the time we start day one in the spring there will be some guys at different positions.”

The need for juggling is clear after a look at the depth chart. J.T. Surratt returns to, presumably, man one starting defensive tackle spot. Defensive tackle Gerald Dixon Jr. and his brother, defensive end Gerald Dixon, seem ready to step into starting roles, but that leaves a glaring hole at defensive end, where the leading candidates weigh 225 pounds (Darius English) and 218 pounds (Mason Harris).

“Right now, (English) is a situational player,” Adams said. “He’s 225 pounds. He can’t play in this conference. He’s not an every-down guy right now. He’s got to add weight. He knows that. That’s a goal during the offseason.”

English had 19 tackles during the regular season. Dixon Jr. finished with 18; Dixon had 15 and backup tackles Phillip Dukes and Kelsey Griffin finished with 14 and 12, respectively. Sutton singled out Griffin from that group for his late season improvement.

“I am very interested to see how they come along next year as far as growing and maturing as a group,” Sutton said.

Clowney has begun to work with the young defensive linemen late in the season, trying to pass along as much as he can before he departs for the NFL, Adams said.

“Those guys behind him have to really step up, and he understands that,” Adams said. “He’s starting to give them tips and things like that. It’s been good for us, and I think it’s going to help us in the future.”

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