South Carolina Football: Who Will Emerge as the Next Superstar on the D-Line?

Charles BennettContributor IJanuary 13, 2014

Dante Sawyer is a four-star defensive end who could be the Gamecocks' next superstar.
Dante Sawyer is a four-star defensive end who could be the Gamecocks' next superstar.Courtesy of 247Sports

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Jadeveon Clowney era at South Carolina is over, but the Gamecocks are hoping the same can't be said of their run of producing NFL-caliber defensive linemen.

Clowney, the Gamecocks' All-American defensive end, and Kelcy Quarles, an All-American defensive tackle, in all probability will become the sixth and seventh defensive linemen from South Carolina chosen in the NFL draft since 2010.

Projected as an early first-round pick and possibly the No. 1 player overall by most draft analysts, Clowney won't have to wait long to hear his name called. Quarles is projected by CBSsportsline as a second- to third-round selection.

Now it becomes a matter of who's next for the Gamecocks as they seek to continue their run of grooming NFL talent on the defensive line.

Defensive tackle. J.T. Surratt is the only returning starter for the Gamecocks, but defensive tackle Gerald Dixon Jr. and defensive end Gerald Dixon have played a lot of football in reserve roles.

The Dixon brothers have the pedigree. Their father, Gerald Sr., had a 10-year career in the NFL as a linebacker.

However, if there's a superstar waiting in the wings at South Carolina,  it's very likely he'll be arriving courtesy of the incoming recruiting class.

Realizing the pending void up front, the Gamecock coaching staff has gone hard after defensive linemen in this year's recruiting efforts.

Top commitments include 4-star recruits Abu Lamin, a 6-3, 300-pound tackle and Dante Sawyer, a 6'6'' 262-pound defensive end.

Lamin is a junior college transfer who has already enrolled and will be eligible to participate in spring practice.

The Gamecocks also have commitments from 3-star defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth and 3-star defensive end Jhaustin Thomas.

Dexter Wideman is a four-star defensive tackle with superstar potential
Dexter Wideman is a four-star defensive tackle with superstar potential247Sports

In addition, the Gamecocks are still in pursuit of 4-star defensive tackles Dexter Wideman.

Wideman committed early to Florida State, but according to 247Sports, is reconsidering in favor of the Gamecocks.

If the Gamecocks can land Wideman, it will do nothing but solidify an already solid class as well as make the odds good that South Carolina's tradition of developing NFL-caliber defensive linemen will continue.

Verbal commitments and player rankings courtesy of 247Sports.