TAMPA, Fla. — A South Carolina defensive lineman is going to turn a lot of heads later this week when college footballs best show up in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.
Kelcy Quarles thinks its going to be him. The 6-foot-4, 298-pound defensive tackle knows he wont be selected as high as former teammate and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, but he thinks he can join Clowney in the first round of Mays NFL draft, and he plans to prove it with his workouts at the combine.
I am really trying to blow peoples minds, Quarles said. I am going to run faster than people expect. I am going to do everything way better than people expect. I am just excited. There is really no telling where I am going to (be drafted). I am expecting to get into the first round.
ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said earlier this month that Quarles draft stock is gaining momentum and that he is considered a second round or possibly a late first round pick at this point.
Im with Kiper, Quarles said. I feel like I have a lot of momentum, too.
Quarles left South Carolina after a junior season in which he led the Gamecocks with 9.5 sacks.
I have a lot of confidence in myself. Why shouldnt I? I had a great year, was the captain of a great team, had a great coach, great teammates around me, I know what I can do, Quarles said. I know what I am capable of running. I know I am a strong guy. I did everything I possibly could for my team, so I saw I could get to the top level of where I wanted to go if I set high standards for myself.
Quarles is preparing for the combine at The Performance Compound here along with former teammates Victor Hampton and Bruce Ellington. His weekly schedule includes on-field workouts with former NFL and LSU defensive lineman Booger McFarland.
I am getting a whole lot better, Quarles said. I see a tremendous change in everything I have been doing.
The hardest parts of the preparation for Quarles have not been on the field but in the yoga studio where he is each Wednesday for hot yoga and the dramatic changes to his diet.
Yoga is helpful, but it aint easy being in there sweating and being my size, he said. Its a little man activity, but I go in there and try my hardest.
Quarles also is losing some of gut that South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier commented on several times during his final season with the Gamecocks. It has not been easy. Quarles learned it wouldnt be on the first day when his pre-packaged meal included a sweet potato and egg white mixture that made him vomit.
I never ate more greens in my life, he said. I am changing my whole lifestyle. I feel it in my body. I feel lighter. You just feel healthier. I see now when you eat healthier and you lay down, you just feel comfortable. Its kind of gratifying because you can say, I just sat here all day and ate healthy, and now I can sit here in peace and not worry about feeling like I am fat. I just feel good.