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National Signing Day 2014: Dante Sawyer Signs with South Carolina

If he can qualify academically, Sawyer will have the chance to play early for a young group of Gamecocks defensive ends.

Four-star defensive end Dante Sawyer made good on his pledge to South Carolina by being one of the first recruits to send in his Letter of Intent to the Gamecocks on Wednesday morning. After having shown interest in Georgia and Auburn early in his recruitment, Dante Sawyer of Suwanee (Ga.)  North Gwinnett verbally committed to the South Carolina Gamecocks this past December. Sawyer was awarded a four-star/95 rating by 247Sports. His 247 composite score is .9475. His recruiters of record were G.A. Mangus and Deke Adams.

SB Nation recruiting analyst Bud Elliott evaluated Sawyer last spring:

Dante Sawyer is one of the best edge defenders in the country. At 6'3 and 240 pounds, he is capable of playing defensive end in a 4-3 defense or outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Sawyer stars for Suwanee (GA) North Gwinnett High School. He is a consensus four-star recruit and is rated by most as one of the 10 best defensive ends nationally.

Sawyer has good, but not great quickness off the snap. What he does do very well, however, is convert speed to power by staying low and getting the most out of his power body. He has some pass-rushing moves, though they'll need some refinement at the next level. Importantly, he seems to have a plan. He sets up his man and works one move off another, understanding positioning and spacing.

His football smarts are also evident against the run. Sawyer shows good functional strength and is willing to fight opposing blockers. He plays low and with good balance, maintaining a good football position from which to make tackles. Sawyer really seems to have a good idea of how to play football; he is not the typical high school speed rusher who runs around at full speed without a plan.

Because of his fundamentals and understanding of the game, Sawyer could play early at a BCS school if the depth chart is right. He could eventually play at 255-260 pounds, and should be plenty productive.

The physically mature Sawyer has the opportunity to contribute early at Carolina. With the departures of Jadeveon Clowney and Chaz Sutton, our returning talent at defensive end includes Gerald Dixon, Darius English, Mason Harris, and Devin Washington. Dixon showed some promise this past season but may lack the athleticism necessary to play at an elite level. English has so far been used as a situational pass-rusher due to his small size. Harris and Washignton have yet to contribute. Sawyer, along with fellow commit and JUCO product Jhaustin Thomas, come to Carolina competing for spots on the most wide-open depth chart Carolina has seen in many years at defensive end, which has been a position of strength in recent years. The good news is that Sawyer appears to have the upside necessary to continue in a long line of great Gamecocks at the position.

The concern with Sawyer is that he still has work to do to qualify academically. Given his potential to make an impact not just down the road but to perhaps have a big role in what the defense looks like next year, Gamecocks fans will be hoping hard that he does.