South Carolina Football 2011: Analyzing the Incredible Defensive Ends

Alex RobertsCorrespondent IJune 15, 2011

South Carolina Football 2011: Analyzing the Incredible Defensive Ends

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Devin Taylor #98 and Cliff Matthews #83 of the South Carolina Gamecocks force a fumble by quarterback Cam Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers during the 2010 SEC Championship at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    One of the most talented groups on the team happens to be the smallest number of players listed on the spring depth chart. 

    There is a reason for that... a BIG reason. 

    A "No. 1 recruit in the country and his best friend" big. 

    Even as Jadeveon Clowney has become academically eligible to play for South Carolina, the team is already loaded at the defensive end position, and will only become better once Mr. Clowney and Mr. Gerald Dixon come to Columbia. 

    Let's take a look at the great defensive ends of South Carolina. 

Devin Taylor

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    ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Devin Taylor #98 and Cliff Matthews #83 of the South Carolina Gamecocks force a fumble by quarterback Cam Newton #2 of the Auburn Tigers during the 2010 SEC Championship at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Height: 6'7"

    Weight: 248 lbs.

    Year: Redshirt Junior

    Pros: Size, strength, speed, hands, moves, motor

    Cons: None... he is a very, very good player at this point in his career. 

     

    Devin Taylor is currently predicted to be a first-round draft pick next year.  That's how good he truly was as a sophomore. 

    With a 6'7" frame and speed to burn, he is a nightmare for opposing offenses.  He can run down plays from behind, he can cover and boy, he can harass a quarterback.  He will have a MONSTER 2011, probably his final as a Gamecock. 

    I wouldn't blame him for passing up first-round money. 

Melvin Ingram

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    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 272 lbs.

    Year: Redshirt Senior

    Pros: Size, strength, pursuit, ability to break free from blocks

    Cons: Speed, converting from defensive tackle (not the toughest switch, though). 

     

    Last years sack leader (with nine) comes back listed as a starter at defensive end, and rightfully so, as Melvin could be one of the surprises of 2011.  He is an All-SEC level talent, with great strength and the ability to break free from blocks. 

    An excellent player who could keep Jadeveon Clowney out of the starting lineup. 

Byron McKnight

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    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 242 lbs.

    Year: Redshirt Senior

    Pros: Strength, power off of the line, speed, good in pass situations

    Cons: Consistency, weak against the run

     

    For what Byron McKnight lacks in consistency, he makes up for in raw physical talent.  He is a fast, powerful player who can use his agility or brute force to make it through the line. 

    Although mostly a pass rush specialist, he can contribute in that capacity and will be in the final rotation when the first game against East Carolina comes around. 

Chaz Sutton

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    Height: 6'4"

    Weight: 245 lbs.

    Year: Redshirt Sophomore

    Pros: Speed, athleticism, strength

    Cons: Technique (tends to get bogged down at times when breaking away from blockers), consistency

     

    Chaz Sutton has all the potential in the world and has shown himself to be a great athlete.  He has played linebacker, but showed such a knack for pass rushing, he became a defensive end.  He has speed, strength and the ability to outwork the offensive linemen. 

    Sometimes he stands up a bit too tall, allowing offensive linemen to get underneath him.  If he can lower himself a bit, he could be a force. 

Jadeveon Clowney

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    Height: 6'6"

    Weight: 247 lbs.

    Year: Incoming Freshman

    Pros: He's a freak. 

    Cons: Possible Character Issues

     

    Quite possibly the most athletic player on South Carolina's team...as a freshman...he will come in and be an immediate impact player.  He could start out as a pass rush specialist, because the defensive end group is so solid. 

    However, if he does come in and perform as expected, the coaches could decide to move the great Melvin Ingram back to defensive tackle, then have Clowney take his place alongside Devin Taylor. 

    Good luck, SEC linemen. 

Gerald Dixon

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    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 260 lbs.

    Year: Incoming Freshman

    Pros: Strength, pursuit, agility

    Cons: Speed, technique, playing too high

     

    What amazes me about Gerald Dixon is that he shared a team with Jadeveon Clowney and still got 170 tackles and 19.5 sacks. 

    Talk about a steal, getting both him and his brother (who is a defensive tackle). 

    He will see time.  If not this season, then next.  He needs a bit of time to work on his playing base...but has the natural ability and strength to be a starter. 

Overall: A

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    ROCK HILL, SC - FEBRUARY 14:  Jadeveon Clowney announces his college football commitment to the University of South Carolina Gamecocks during a press conference at South Pointe High School on February 14, 2011 in Rock Hill, South Carolina.  (Photo by Stre
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    These players could be starters on any team in the SEC, but South Carolina has all of them.  This group will be a force, and I would almost put money on them leading the SEC (and possibly the nation) in sacks.  They came close last year and will only get better.