Replacing players like Melvin Ingram and Travian Robertson is not an easy task. That, however, is exactly what defensive line coach Brad Lawing is tasked with this season. Fortunately, he has an entire stable of linemen to coach this spring in an effort to replace so much the productive players who will be taking their games to the next level.
Freshman All-American Jadeveon Clowney
As good as Ingram was at South Carolina and a likely first-round draft pick later this month, he has a great talent in sophomore Jadeveon Clowney ready to take over his starter's role at defensive end. Senior Byron Jerideau has the inside track on the top spot at tackle, alongside sophomore Kelcy Quarles, but the competition is ongoing.
Lawing has four redshirt freshmen to work with and a few other players who have played limited roles in recent years. It’s important for those players to have a big spring and keep improving.
“I have seen improvement in all of them, but we have to keep working,” Lawing said. “We have the rest of the spring, all offseason and then the preseason in August but they are developing like I thought they would. Nobody has jumped up and said, ‘Hey I am a great player right now,’ but that is expected from a freshman.”
Lawing confirmed what defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward initially stated that Jerideau has the lead for the starting spot alongside Quarles, but was also quick to note that the competition isn’t over.
“To be honest, Jerideau has had a very good spring and is probably the next guy right now but the competition is going to go all the way through August,” Lawing said. “It won’t be over until we get ready to play that first game.”
Quarles, however, is certainly a starter. Lawing cited production as the main reason that Quarles has already been named a starter and the rising sophomore still has the right mindset.
"I feel I have done a whole lot better with my mindset," Quarles said. "I come out here with the mindset to get better every day and just be a team player and be about myself. I want to be a team player and listen to what Coach Lawing says instead of kicking out what he says all the time. I want to play the role Travian played last year, but do an even better job on the field.”
South Carolina returns to the practice field on Thursday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. The team will also practice on April 10 and 12 at 4:15 p.m. prior to the Garnet & Black Spring Game on April 14 at 1p.m.
Defensive line coach Brad Lawing with redshirt freshman end Gerald Dixon
Q&A with Lawing
How has spring gone and how have some of the young guys done so far this spring?
Every day has been an extra step for the young guys. Gerald Dixon plays end and this is his 11th practice day because he missed all last season and he is getting better. I have seen improvement in all of them, but we have to keep working. We have the rest of the spring, all offseason and then the preseason in August but they are developing like I thought they would. Nobody has jumped up and said, “Hey I am a great player right now,” but that is expected from a freshman.
What was it that made you put Kelcy Quarles in as a starter last year and how has he done so far this spring?
He is making more plays and that is why I moved him into a starters role. I put a lot of stock into production and he was making plays and has kept making plays. When he plays with good pad level and uses his power, he is a good player, but he doesn’t have it sometimes and he stands up and he is not a good player then.
How would you compare Kelcy’s development at this point in his career to some of the other guys you have had?
As far as him knowing the ball game, he is on par with where Travian was. Kelcy came in during the spring and Travian came in during the spring. He is about the same though as Travian.
To be honest, Jerideau has had a very good spring and is probably the next guy right now but the competition is going to go all the way through August. It won’t be over until we get ready to play that first game.
How has the development of Surratt been this spring?
He has done good and made improvement. He is going into his third season and I have always worked under the philosophy that by the third season you should be making some type of contribution.
What is the biggest improvement you have seen in Surratt this spring?
I.Q. And once your I.Q. improves, you play faster because there is less doubt in your mind. When you play with confidence you are going to play faster.
With the departure of Travian and Melvin, who have you seen stepping up to be more of a leader of the line?
I think Clowney can be a leader because he has such a great personality and he is very talented. Kelcy is a very competitive person and Devin leads by example, he is just a not a big talker which is fine. So of the front of the game I think we have good leaders really throughout the group.
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