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Position breakdown: Defensive line

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Coach Boom says D-Line is “key.”

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Michigan vs South Carolina Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

With the winding down of SEC Media Days, all focus shifts to the start of fall practice on August 3. There is plenty to be excited about in Columbia: Football is in the air and we are so close we can almost taste it. South Carolina looks primed and ready for another year of progression in year 3 of the Will Muschamp era. The key to another successful season starts on the defensive line according to Muschamp, and it’s hard to argue against that.

We all know the offense is supposed to be the best Muschamp has had in his tenure for the Gamecocks. With eight players returning to the offensive side of the ball in 2018 and the new up-tempo offense of first year coordinator Bryan McClendon, along with getting maybe the most explosive play maker in the SEC back in Deebo Samuel, there is reason to be very excited about the look of the offense.

The defense, however, is still thin in the secondary, especially at safety. The loss of Gamecock great Skai Moore means the opportunity is there for Sherrod Greene to break out in his sophomore season. But let’s face it, Carolina has struggled getting to the passer and that is something that has to improve if the Gamecocks are to take another step in the right direction.

South Carolina had only 26 sacks last season, which was 11th in the SEC. For Carolina to have a special season this stat HAS to go up, and that starts with the big guys up front. When asked about the defense, coach Muschamp said, “Well I think number one we need to be more effective with four guys rushing the passer.” He also stated confidently, “We’ll be better up front than we’ve been and I think that’s the key to it.”

NCAA Football: SEC Football Media Day
D.J. Wonnum looks to be primed for a breakout 2018.
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

D.J. Wonnum is looking to build off a 2017 season that saw him collect a team-leading six sacks. He needs help, though, and that could come from Javon Kinlaw. Muschamp sang his praises saying, “Javon was a guy that came on campus at about 340 pounds. He totally bought into our nutrition program. He’s down to about 300 pounds.”

Shameik Blackshear is another on the line that has to step up and be productive with only six tackles in eight games last year. He did finish strong against Clemson, with three of his six tackles coming in the season finale. Keir Thomas is also looking to improve on his two sacks from last season. Thomas did make strides from year one to year two, nabbing 14 more tackles in only two starts in 2018.

Kobe Smith has been very productive — in 24 games he has 17 tackles which makes him a big component in Travaris Robinson’s defense. For the Gamecocks to win in big games such as when the Georgia Bulldogs come to Williams-Brice Stadium on September 8 at 3:30 on CBS, pressure in the trenches will make the difference.