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Post-spring assessment of South Carolina's 2024 EDGE room

UVA BIO PICby:Mike Uva06/04/24

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The post-spring assessment series of South Carolina’s football team continues. Today, we’re taking a deeper look at the Gamecocks’ EDGE room.

Like we’ve been doing with the other breakdowns, aside from the quarterback room that we looked at already, we’ll only be focusing on scholarship players for this breakdown.

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Elijah Davis – After transferring in from East Mississippi CC, Davis appeared in four games and finished with six tackles this past season. Since Davis played in just four games in 2023, he still has two years of eligibility remaining.

Kyle Kennard – A transfer from Georgia Tech, Kennard had 54 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, six sacks, two force fumbles, and an interception last season for the Yellow Jackets. Appearing in 36 games over the past three seasons, he started in 17 of those games. A fifth-year, he has one year of eligibility remaining.

Bryan Thomas Jr. – Following a strong spring game performance, Thomas started in six of the 12 games he appeared in this past season. Racking up a total of 22 tackles, he was also credited with two tackles for loss, one sack, and one force fumble. Thomas has two years of eligibility remaining.

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Jatius Geer –  Appearing in South Carolina’s final nine games, Geer finished the season with ten tackles, one sack, one force fumble, and a pass deflection. He has two years of eligibility remaining.

Gilber Edmond – After spending the 2023 season with Florida State, Edmond returns for his second stint with the Gamecocks. Appearing in 35 games with ten career starts, Edmond accumulated 23 tackles last season, including a sack and forced a fumble. He has one year of eligibility remaining.

Desmond Umeozulu – Umeozulu played in all 12 games as a true freshman and finished with nine tackles. He has three years of eligibility remaining.

Dylan Stewart – Regarded as a consensus five-star, Stewart is considered the No.12 overall prospect for the class of 2024 by On3.

Takeaways

Since South Carolina’s Garnet & Black Spring Game on April 20, one EDGE has hit the portal. That player is Terrell Dawkins. After suffering a knee injury towards the end of the 2022 season, it just felt like Dawkins wasn’t able to get back to where he needed to be to play more snaps. Appearing in just five games last season, he recorded no stats.

I walked away from this spring extremely impressed by USC’s EDGE room. What comes to mind is speed, length, and versatility. Speed and length speak for themselves, but when I mention versatility, I’m talking about the different skill sets that are in that EDGE room. Like a good pitcher in baseball who can keep a batter on his toes between using a fastball mixed in with some breaking balls, South Carolina’s EDGE room has the potential to cause a lot of headaches for both left and right tackles this season.

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Starting with perhaps the player who I think will have the biggest breakout season on defense: Bryan Thomas Jr. The more I talk to people inside of South Carolina’s building, they think he’s on the verge of putting together something special this season. But what makes Thomas’ game so frustrating for his opponents is that he isn’t a one-trick pony. He’s very technically sound, which leaves tackles guessing how he’s gonna try to beat them off the line of scrimmage.

Add in an experienced player like Kennard who brings both speed and power, a guy like Umeozulu who has length and a year of college football under his belt, and that room just keeps looking better. Never mind the fact that Edmond returns after spending a season at FSU and the addition of Stewart.

Geer’s stats weren’t anything crazy, but hopefully, a year in South Carolina’s system will allow him to be more productive in 2023. Keep in mind with Geer that he joined the team after the start of fall camp after starting in 12 games at Syracuse the previous season. Davis provided more depth than anything else last season, but that’s okay. Getting his feet wet in four games this past year, it’s clear that the plan wasn’t for Davis to make an immediate impact in his first year at South Carolina.

Early 2024 Week 1 Prediction

My thoughts haven’t changed much as far as who I expect to see start Week 1. But I do believe that with the depth South Carolina has been able to add, that we could be seeing more players getting snaps this season. If that’s the case, look for the Gamecocks to not only look faster but to play faster as well with fresher legs when they’re in the fourth quarter.

The first player I have in as a Week 1 starter is Thomas. If you can’t tell by now, I think he can be a major difference-maker this season for the Gamecocks. Coming off a strong 2023 season and spring, he knows the system and has earned the trust of the coaches. The next player I have out there as a starter is Kennard. Kennard brings plenty of experience and production with him. The fact that Kennard had a chance to be on campus for spring practices should only make his transition that much smoother when USC heads into fall camp.

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After that, buckle up. Umeozulu should be competing for some starts some weeks as the season plays out, but I expect him to be used a good bit this season. Edmond wasn’t brought back just for charity. So far from the spring, we’ve heard nothing but positive things about how Edmond has looked. Don’t sleep on his impact this season while Greer and Davis will look to have expanded roles as well this season.

What about Stewart? While I don’t like to say that a freshman will play right away, if there’s any freshman in this class who I feel can make an impact right away, it’s Stewart. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get some starts as the season progresses if he’s able to perform as he did in the spring game but be patient. This isn’t a video game, and not every true freshman will be out there playing a bunch of snaps in Week 1. Put the number of stars away, take a deep breath, and remember he’s a freshman. It’s a long season, and the more reps he gets in practice at this level, the better he’s gonna be.

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