South Carolina doesn’t have Jadeveon Clowney or even Darius English along the defensive line anymore. Now, it may be senior Taylor Stallworth’s turn.
Gamecocks defensive line coach Lance Thompson identified Stallworth as a “special guy” on the defensive front during a news conference following Thursday’s practice.
“Taylor, without a doubt, is our one guy that’s a special guy, an SEC top-level player,” Thompson said. “He needs to play well for us and play a lot for us.”
That gives the Gamecocks hope of finding a replacement for English, by far the line’s most effective pass rusher last season. English finished last season with 60 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and nine sacks; no other Gamecock had more than two sacks, and South Carolina as a team had just 21.
Limited by a shoulder injury in 2016, Stallworth (6 feet 2, 305 pounds) finished with 41 tackles and one sack.
Thompson said Stallworth, along with fellow seniors Dante Sawyer and Ulric Jones, have been taking the lead on the defensive line, although sophomore Kobe Smith is coming on strong.
Thompson also said that sophomore defensive lineman Shameik Blackshear has been out of action during camp because of a concussion. There’s no timetable for Blackshear, an elite four-star recruit when he signed with the Gamecocks from Bluffton (S.C.) High in 2015, to return to the team.
On a more positive note, Thompson singled out the work of true freshman Aaron Sterling (6-1, 240), a three-star end who could be on the verge of working his way into more playing time in 2017.
“Aaron Sterling has been a really pleasant surprise, a little bit like D.J. (Wonnum) was last year,” Thompson said. “Very instinctive, great attitude, works hard, super kid. I’m really excited about Aaron.”
South Carolina opens its schedule on September 2 against NC State in Charlotte.
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