South Carolina Football: Top NFL Prospects for 2013
South Carolina is poised to have several players taken in the early rounds of the NFL draft in 2012.
Names like Melvin Ingram, Stephon Gilmore and Alshon Jeffery all appear to have star potential at the next level and certainly gives the Gamecocks an extra boost in recruiting for the future.
The message recruits will see is you can come to South Carolina and move on to the NFL. It's that simple.
2012 is expected to be another big year for the Gamecocks and there are plenty of players on this roster that could be potential NFL Draft picks at the next level.
Here's a look at the top five prospects who could have NFL dreams come true in 2013...
#1: RB Marcus Lattimore
The man who could have been the most visible player for the Gamecocks the past two seasons will be draft eligible in 2013 after his junior year.
Marcus Lattimore made a name for himself in the second game of his career and has been mentioned as one of the best around the country. An injury derailed a strong start to his sophomore campaign but he's expected to return with full force in 2012.
Lattimore has rushed for over 2,000 yards in his young career including 1,197 during his freshman season with 17 rushing touchdowns. He finished the 2011 season with 163 carries for 818 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.
If you are looking for the complete package at the next level then look no further than Marcus Lattimore. He's got it all when it comes to being a complete running back. He runs with power and is able to break the tackle to gain the extra yardage. He's got excellent vision and can find the holes in between the tackles to break free for a big gain.
He's also a versatile receiver out of the backfield and an excellent pass blocker. The only thing you can call a negative for Lattimore is he doesn't have the breakaway speed but his running style doesn't need it.
Big players come to play in the big games and Marcus Lattimore has stepped up for the Gamecocks over the course of his career.
He's a first-round NFL draft pick and it's possible that the 2012 season could be his last in the Garnet and Black.
He'll go down as one of the greatest ever at South Carolina and looks like a future NFL superstar.
#2: DE Devin Taylor
Heading into the 2011 season, Devin Taylor was a potential first-round NFL draft pick.
A slow start to the year limited his opportunities but he's coming back for his senior year to prove that he can play in the NFL.
Taylor blew onto the scene in 2010 with 46 total tackles and 7.5 sacks on the year. He made several postseason award lists and had a big name heading into 2011. He struggled early in the year but finished strong and ended the season with 42 total tackles and 6.0 sacks.
He's got a long, lean frame with an explosive pass rush. The long arms enable him to have extra opportunities to bat down passes from the opposing quarterback and quick speed gives him a chance to run down speedy players.
The big issue with Taylor is does he play at defensive end or linebacker at the next level? His weight is at the in between stage right now but a strong senior season could push him up the draft boards and potentially in the first round.
He'll be opposite star freshman Jadeveon Clowney in 2012 to form one of the top defensive end duos in the country. He should be able to put up big numbers for the Gamecocks and he'll force some NFL team to take a big chance with him early in the 2013 draft.
#3: S DeVonte Holloman
There's another No. 21 on the Gamecocks football team that's pretty good too.
Safety DeVonte Holloman has been a mainstay on this tough Gamecock defense for three seasons now and will head into his senior year with something to prove.
Holloman was one of the top tackles for the Gamecocks in 2011 with 51 total tackles. He had 4.0 tackles for loss and had one interception that was returned for 26 yards.
He's capable of playing multiple positions in the secondary and is built well to handle playing close to the line of scrimmage. Holloman is a big hitter and is an excellent athlete.
If there is one thing he could work on then that would be pass coverage. Holloman played better in this aspect during the 2011 season but he needs to show the NFL scouts he can handle to complex passing games at the next level.
Expect a big year from DeVonte Holloman in 2012 and to hear his name called in the NFL draft in 2013.
#4: S D.J. Swearinger
There's plenty of reasons to see why the Gamecocks were ranked in the Top 10 nationally in total defense in 2011.
Safety D.J. Swearinger was a big part of the equation in 2011.
Swearinger stepped up his game from 2010 when he had 66 total tackles to finish second on the team with 80 tackles in 2011. He was also second on the team in interceptions with three on the year and had one forced fumble as well.
He's another versatile player in this secondary with the ability to play multiple safety positions. Swearinger became a big time player for South Carolina in 2011 and it looks like he'll be even better in 2012.
The size is there to handle the tough receivers at the next level, and like Holloman, he's a big hitter as well. He's also quick enough with a solid 40-yard dash.
He needs to prove he can continue to improve with all aspects of the game but if he plays in 2012 like he did in 2011 then expect D.J. Swearinger to be playing on Sundays.
#5: C T.J. Johnson
There has been one constant for the Gamecocks on the offensive line the past three seasons and his name is T.J. Johnson.
Johnson started all 13 games at right guard in 2009 for the Gamecocks and then moved over to center for 14 starts in 2010. He also started 13 games for the Gamecocks in 2011 to make that 40 consecutive starts on the offensive line.
This is an almost unheard of stat for a South Carolina offensive lineman in recent years so you know there is something T.J. Johnson does right.
He's the leader on the offensive line and is responsible for setting the blocking assignments. He stands 6'5" and weighs 316 pounds right now but his experience at the interior position at guard and center will give him a better chance of making a roster in the NFL.
He was also the Harold White GPA winner at the 2011 Garnet and Black Spring Game. He's a smart, humble young man that will work hard to do what's right for the team.
Johnson should continue to be the stalwart of the offensive line in 2012 and he's got a chance to be an NFL draft pick. It may come in the late rounds but just getting picked would be an honor and great recognition for an extremely solid player for the Gamecocks.