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Dante Sawyer to become a full-time starter in final season

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The senior is expected to start from the jump after only four starts in two years.

Vanderbilt v South Carolina Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Ladies and Gentlemen... presenting defensive line week! A position group much maligned since Jadeveon Clowney’s departure in 2013, we’re going to take a deep dive on the front four looking to lead a resurgence for the Gamecock pass rush. Here’s a preview of what’s to come the next week or so:

Dante Sawyer | DJ Wonnum | Daniel Fennell | Taylor Stallworth | Keir Thomas | Ulric Jones | Javon Kinlaw | Kobe Smith | Shameik Blackshear | Aaron Sterling | Brad Johnson | Aaron Thompson

#95 Dante Sawyer

Senior / 6’3” / 275 / Suwanee, Ga. / East Mississippi CC

Heading into the 2017 campaign, Dante Sawyer is expected to start on the defensive line for the Gamecocks. He will likely feature on the edge but could also play inside if needed. He was listed as a starting defensive end on the two-deep.

Sawyer has play in 24 of a possible 25 games since arriving in Columbia. His collegiate career started with an NJCAA national championship at East Mississippi CC, the school featured in the Netflix series Last Chance U. In his sophomore season, first with the Gamecocks, Sawyer played in 11 games, starting four times. He contributed 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks. In 2016, Sawyer played in every game and managed 25 tackles, a sack and four tackles for loss.

Heading into his final year in Columbia, Sawyer is going to be one of the leaders on the defensive line. He’ll likely start every game if healthy. The pass-rush has been non-existent in Columbia recently. In 2012 the Gamecocks ranked sixth in the nation with 43 sacks, led by 13 from Jadeveon Clowney. Carolina has failed to get to the QB often in the four years since though, with national rankings of 64th (25), 119th (14), 99th (20) and 92nd (21) in in 2013-2016 respectively. With the Gamecocks needing a big improvement in that area, Sawyer will need to increase on his career total of 3.5 sacks this season.

2016 Stats: 13 games, 25 tackles, 4 tackles for loss and 1 sack.

Recruitment: Four-star JUCO-transfer that signed with South Carolina on July 27, 2014. Out of high school, Sawyer was an U.S. Army all-american and also ranked as a four-star prospect. Various offers including Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State and Southern California. Committed to the Gamecocks on Dec. 17, 2013.

Next Up: Another Georgia native, D.J. Wonnum. Wonnum heads into his sophomore season after an impressive freshman campaign.