Dante Sawyer will spend 2014 at East Mississippi Junior College, according to a report by Wes Mitchell of The Big Spur. The Gamecocks' four-star defensive end signee has obtained his graduate equivalency diploma and is already on his way to Scooba, Miss. to begin classes. Sawyer hopes to enroll at South Carolina in 2015 with four years to play three.
Made this move now to better my future, so all you nay sayers can kick rocks.— Dante Sawyer (@SavageTaee_) February 20, 2014
1yr away...just like redshirting not a big difference.— Dante Sawyer (@SavageTaee_) February 20, 2014
Sawyer's absence from the 2014 roster will be a big blow for the Gamecocks. South Carolina has to replace both of its defensive end starters from 2013, and the group of returning players is light on top-tier talent. 6'6, 226 sophomore Darius English and 6'2, 268 junior Gerald Dixon will be the chief competitors for the starting roles, but neither are likely to finish the 2014 season on an all-conference team.
The incoming crop of linemen offers some boom-or-bust potential for the upcoming season. Three-star JUCO defensive end signee Jhaustin Thomas is a candidate to compete for early playing time but, like Sawyer, Thomas has some work to do to qualify academically. The same can be said for four-star defensive tackle signee Dexter Wideman, who projects as a defensive tackle in the long run but could line up at defensive end early in his career. Kalan Ritchie has the potential to become an above-average lineman at some point during his career but is very unlikely to make an impact as a true freshman.
The Gamecocks' 11th-hour National Signing Day flip of three-star defensive end Blake McClain could end up paying immediate dividends. At 6'4, 280 pounds, McClain already has the size to compete for playing time as a true freshman. The Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. native was the No. 22 strongside defensive end prospect in the 2014 class according to the 247Sports Composite Recruiting index.