South Carolina is a rising star in the SEC and the draft classes that have begun to cycle out of Columbia are proof that this team is reaching elite status.
This is a look at the Carolina draft class for 2013.
Marcus Lattimore is making an amazing comeback looking to land in the draft, and guys like Ace Sanders and DeVonte Holloman are listening for their names on draft weekend.
There is a lot of talent departing the South Carolina program this draft cycle, and this is your preview to draft day in Columbia.
Note: Player profiles will be updated once drafted
Where He Was Selected: Second round - 57 Overall to the Houston Texans
Weight: 208 pounds
D.J. Swearinger has been a consistent big-hitter since arriving at South Carolina and that will carry over to the NFL.
He is not in the elite class of safety in this draft cycle, but he is a solid second-line pick at the position and will be a valuable pickup for a team in the second or third round.
Once he is faced with more talented ball-carriers, Swearinger will have to improve his tackling skills, but he has all the makings of a rookie contributor for 2013.
Where He Was Selected: Fourth round - 131 Overall to the San Francisco 49ers
Weight: 221 pounds
Marcus Lattimore is a versatile running back that has been in the national spotlight since arriving at South Carolina. Unfortunately for Lattimore, a lot of the news coming from Columbia during his career has been injury-related.
This is a look at his rehab routine (h/t SI.com):
Despite his lengthy injury report, Lattimore is a durable runner between the tackles and is as talented as any back in this cycle in the passing game out of the backfield.
He has one gear, but the speed is enough to create separation and break long runs. He is a steal as a mid-round pick, and will be ready to perform by 2014.
Where He Was Selected: Sixth round - 185 Overall to the Dallas Cowboys
Weight: 243 pounds
Holloman has been a steady defender for the Gamecocks over the years that started his career as a safety and made the transition to linebacker midway through his career.
That alone will be enough to push him ahead of other linebackers in this class. His instincts against the run are some of the best in the game, and he is a powerful drive tackler.
Holloman is a solid pickup in this draft that is way underrated for his talents.
Where He Was Selected: Fourth round - 132 Overall to the Detroit Lions
Weight: 266 pounds
Devin Taylor is an explosive defensive end that has been overshadowed by teammate Jadeveon Clowney over the past few seasons.
The Gamecocks relied heavily on Taylor over the past few seasons to be a solid rush end that secures his edge against the best ground games in college football.
He has been successful as a pass-rusher inside the tackles, but Taylor has to work on releasing from blocks when attacking the outside. He can get a bit high at times when engaged with a blocker because of his height, but he can improve that at the next level.
Taylor may not carry the name recognition of his other teammates along South Carolina’s line, but he is just as talented. He can be a star if he lands in the right defensive scheme.
He is a great fit for the Lions as an aggressive pass-rusher.
Where He Was Selected: Fourth round - 101 Overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars
Weight: 173 pounds
Ace Sanders surprised us when he declared for the NFL draft early and there are reasons why it was a surprise.
Sanders was relying on his return ability and speed to separate himself from a host of other specialists in this draft class, but when he posted a 4.58 40-yard dash questions began to drop.
He wasn’t as fast as most expected, and his light frame adds to concerns. As a punt returner he is deadly, but as a pro receiver he looks to be borderline mediocre.
This is a look at Sanders impressing scouts with his punt-catching skills:
Where He Was Selected: TBD
Weight: 258 pounds
If a team is looking for a pure blocking tight end, Justice Cunningham is that guy. He was a solid blocker for the Gamecocks ground game, and added a tertiary option to the passing game for the Carolina offense.
He was not a productive tight end on paper, and that will lead to concerns about future production from the position.
Cunningham will not blow you away with his athleticism or speed, so he is limited by scheme.
This cycle isn’t thick with playmakers at tight end, which helps Cunningham’s stock by default, but his draft stock is still very low. He will be a late-round selection or free-agent pickup after the draft.