Arden Key to South Carolina: Gamecocks Land 4-Star DE Prospect

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistJune 3, 2014

Credit: 247Sports

Arden Key's decommitment from South Carolina started a southern-school recruiting war. Now, Key is again heading to South Carolina.

Key announced his decision via Twitter:

The 4-star defensive end affirmed his fall destination on Tuesday, choosing the Gamecocks over offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Ole Miss. A Hapeville Charter standout in his native Atlanta, Key will spend his next few years trying to ensure his home state university doesn't compete for national titles.

Key's initial lack of interest in Georgia or Georgia Tech was to be a major oversight for both schools. He is ranked No. 123 nationally by 247Sports' composite rankings. Among in-state competitors, Key is 14th, and he's the 10th-best weak-side defensive end overall in the class of 2015.

Where Key stands out is with his versatility. Listed at 6'5" and 200 pounds, Key blasts off the ball with a quick initial burst, allowing him to disrupt activity in the backfield. Even when he's unable to get to the quarterback, his length and athleticism allow him to at least make life difficult for the quarterback. 

“I’m a speed rusher; I’m tall and I can get after the quarterback,” Key told Brian McLaughlin of Saturday Down South. “I’m a good player, and they can make me into a better player in college if they keep putting good weight on me."

It will be interesting to see how Steve Spurrier plans on developing Key. Defensive end is his most natural position and his long-term projection, but his frame and quickness may lend themselves to some outside linebacker opportunities. As defenses continue to evolve into more hybrid sets instead of constant bases, Key may wind up just playing both depending on the situation.

Run defense isn't a strength at this point. Key penetrates as well off the ball as he does against the pass, but the aggressiveness can sometimes lead toward him over-pursuing. It's not an overwhelming problem, and no one can mistake Key for any other player. He hits, he drives and he does so with ferocity. 

The biggest issue with Key is apparent even on high school film: He's slight. For an SEC defensive lineman, he's rail-thin. Getting him into the weight room and on a consistent program will be key to his development, and Key is at such a size disadvantage at this point it would be surprising if he were much more than a situational player as a freshman.

With plenty of time to go between now and the 2015 season, it's possible Key's body develops to the point he could contribute. One can rarely account for how an 18-year-old kid's body grows. Key has the frame to support the extra weight; it's just a matter of him packing it on without losing any of the explosion.

A few years down the line, Key could be the biggest coup of South Carolina's recruiting class. For now, Gamecocks fans can just imagine the possibilities.


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