Posted by Bryan Fischer
Steve Spurrier has positioned South Carolina to not only make to a run at another SEC East title, but a BCS bowl as well in 2011.
Key to the Old Ball Coach transforming the Gamecocks into a - gulp - perennial contender? Impact freshman from in-state.
In 2009, wide receiver Alshon Jeffrey signed with the program and wound up a consensus Freshman All-American. Last year running back Marcus Lattimore picked South Carolina and was a unanimous pick for National Freshman of the Year as the Gamecocks rolled to a division title.
This year, with perhaps his most talented team returning, Spurrier has added the consensus number one overall recruit in the country in Jadeveon Clowney. The 6-foot-6 defensive end racked up 29.5 sacks his final year in high school and pretty much lived in the opponent's back field. While his dominance is unlikely to translate right away at the collegiate level, it's clear South Carolina is going to incorporate Clowney in their defensive line rotation right from the get-go to see what he can do.
"We're trying to let him learn," Spurrier said Wednesday. "Obviously there's a lot of attention if you're the number one recruit in the nation. He's not listed as the starter but he'll be in there a whole lot, early and often."
An ankle injury has slowed him down some during fall camp but he's abused his fair share of offensive lineman during the month of August. It's unclear how exactly defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson will use his newest weapon but don't be surprised if Clowney rushes the passer as a stand up linebacker on occasion. He'll likely take the field behind senior Melvin Ingram but starting the opener versus East Carolina hasn't been ruled out.
"He may start or he may not, I'm not sure what our line coach wants to do right now," Spurrier said. "He's certainly in the mix and a player who is going to play a lot."
Clowney won't just be a speed rusher off the edge for the Gamecocks either. Spurrier notes the freshman has added a few tricks to his repertoire.
"He's also a power rusher," Spurrier added. "In high school, he flew all over the place, fast, ran around everyone. But he's actually gained about 10 pounds or so and is up to 260 or so. He can use a power move also. That's obviously very good for defensive ends."
A scary proposition for opposing left tackles this season and a reason why several quarterbacks are bracing for his impact.