Name: Damani Staley
Position: Outside Linebacker
Height/Weight: 6’1" / 200 lbs.
Hometown: Columbia, SC
Rating: Rivals, ESPN, 247: Three star
There’s no question that South Carolina legacy Damani Staley would be a four-star or borderline five-star recruit if he were registering the same stats he put up at Ridge View High School at a higher profile program (think a South Pointe or Fort Dorchester in South Carolina or a Butler or Independence in North Carolina). But when it comes to diamonds-in-the-rough, he certainly looks to be one of them. Staley was offered by the Gamecocks, Georgia Tech and East Carolina in a span of a week, but the son of former NFL standout and Super Bowl XL champion Duce Staley decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and stay in Columbia to play his college ball.
Strengths: Staley’s numbers read like something out of a video game. As a senior, he registered 120 tackles (64 solo), 29.0 sacks, and 51.5 tackles for a loss. Even if he were putting up half that total, that would be amazing in and of itself, but you’d struggle to get those numbers if you popped in a game of NCAA Football, played on Freshman mode and turned the AI’s difficulty sliders all the way down.
Weaknesses: High school football is very, very, very different than SEC-level football, and there’s no way that Staley can sustain the level of production that he put up at Ridge View. The competition he’ll be facing on a weekly basis will be much more difficult than what he saw on Friday nights. His size (200 pounds) will also be an issue as he’ll need to hit the weight room and bulk up before he hits the field and sees significant time.
Overall: While Staley’s not quite up to SEC size yet, once he gets there, he projects to be a solid addition to this roster, especially with Bryson Allen-Williams and Skai Moore playing their final seasons in 2017. I’d expect his impact to come into greater focus in 2018 as he bulks up and learns the ins and outs of college football. Once he hits the field, though, I think that he will turn out to be a nightmare matchup for opposing quarterbacks.