Kalan Ritchie has mind set on playing defense for USC

dmclemore@thestate.comFebruary 26, 2014 

Kalan Ritchie

DWAYNE MCLEMORE

It only took a week or two into the 2013 season for Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy to realize where he needed to play Kalan Ritchie.

"He's a defensive end. That's what he is," Reedy said. "He had always been a tight end for us. He's a very aggressive football player. That's what made him a good blocker. It's also what makes him a very good defensive player."

South Carolina recruited the 6-foot-5, 226-pound Ritchie as a tight end but signed him Feb. 5 as a defensive end, and that's where he expects to begin his college career.

"It's a great position," Ritchie said. "A lot of great players came out of that position, a lot of aggressive players. I feel I can fit in at South Carolina being that kind of player."

Ritchie played mostly defensive end as a senior, recording 71 tackles (16 for loss), four sacks, 15 quarterback pressures and three pass breakups. He had one catch on offense but did play tight end at other times in Goose Creek's run-first offense.

Goose Creek lost key defensive players from its 2012 team - including current USC freshman Gerald Turner - and planned to play Ritchie both ways last season.

"We felt like after the first or second game, he really would be a difference-maker on defense," Reedy said. "We made the decision at that point that he was going to be a defensive player, and that's the way we played him the whole year."

Ritchie met coaches' expectations and more at defensive end, Reedy said.

"The upside is so great with him," Reedy said. "He's only played defense one year. He's just going to get bigger, stronger, faster. He's a guy four or five years from now that we could be watching play on Sunday. He has that kind of ability."

247Sports recruiting analyst Keith Niebuhr called Ritchie his sleeper of the USC class.

"He's a solid football player with a great frame, a great piece of clay with which to work," Niebuhr said. "In two years down the road when we look at him, he's going to be unrecognizable physically."

The three-star prospect was a Shrine Bowl and Offense Defense All-American Bowl selection as a tight end. He admitted feeling a little like a fish out of water while playing offense in the all-star games.

"It felt like I hadn't played it in a whole year," he said. "I jumped in a couple plays during the season. I still had it. It's not all gone."

Ritchie joins Turner and offensive lineman Brandon Shell as Goose Creek products to sign with the Gamecocks in recent years.

Ritchie still has work to do in the classroom before joining Turner and Shell in Columbia. He has full plans to qualify and be at USC this summer.

When he arrives, he'll do so as a defensive end. That's something he's excited about.

"I know my talent and I know what I can do," Ritchie said. "Like everyone says, 'Once you set your mind for it, you can do it.' My mind has been set for it."

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