With National Signing Day closing earlier this month, it is time to look at the newcomers to the team that will be in line to see the field early in the season. For any rankings used in the article, I will be using the 247Sports Composite ratings.
Number 5: Defensive Tackle Ulric Jones
While Gerald Dixon, Jr. is probably going to start at one of the tackle positions, Jones has the ability to push for playing time, if not for a starting role. Currently he will have to compete with Dixon Jr., Kelsey Griffin, Phillip Dukes and fellow JUCO Abu Lamin, along with the other DT recruits from this class, but he does have a few advantages that will help him this fall. Since he is a JUCO guy, he does already have experience outside of high school and he is physically ready to play immediately. Another reason that he will likely see the field is that he is a vocal player if his twitter is anything to go by, which many fans have believed has been missing since Swearinger left the team.
Number 4: Tight End Kyle Markway
This might seem like an odd pick, but hear me out. The Gamecocks lost three of their tight ends from last year (Rory Anderson, Cody Gibson and Drew Owens) and with Jerrell Adams as the only one with experience, there is an opportunity for Markway to step in. Redmond is also an option, but since Adams is a good pass catching tight end, Markway will serve a similar role that Gibson played this past season. While Markway is lighter than Gibson, he displays a good knowledge of blocking techniques, and given that the offensive line is adding three new starters, Markway will help the run game develop. Even though he is mostly a blocking tight end, he will be able to help in the passing game as well, which is why he gets the nod over Connor Redmond.
Number 3: Wide Receiver Dexter Neal
With the only returning receiver with any real experience being Pharoh Cooper, There will be a lot of opportunities for Neal to make an impact. He will have to compete with Shamier Jeffery, Deebo Samuel, Terry Googer and others for playing time, but with his height and ball handling skills, it will be difficult for the coaches to keep him off the field. He will need to learn the play book, so he may not see much action initially, but I think he can become a major part of the offense as a freshman.
Number 2: Defensive End/Defensive Tackle Dante Sawyer
It has been said many times, but the pass rush was abysmal last year and needed to improve. Sawyer is one guy who will do just that. Gerald Dixon was the most consistent defensive end last year and will likely lock down one spot as a starter, but expect Sawyer to see plenty of action this fall. Despite not qualifying as a part of the 2014 class, he has spent the last year at JUCO getting stronger and getting hungry for this fall. If new defensive coordinator Jon Hoke decides to keep the "Rabbit Package", then Sawyer would be a prime candidate to go into one of those spots. He will likely move to defensive tackle later in his career, but with the log jam at the tackle position and the recent departure of Mason Harris, he has the best chance of playing as a defensive end.
Number One: Defensive End Marquavius Lewis
Was there any doubt who would take the number one position? Lewis is exactly what the defensive line needs to help improve upon the poor play from last year. Again, I think Dixon maintains one of the starting spots, but Lewis will take the other. Lewis has a college ready body and possesses the initial burst of speed, strength and tackling ability to terrorize the SEC this year.