Name: Aaron Sterling
Position: Strong side defensive end
Height/Weight: 6’1" / 260 lbs.
Hometown: Tucker, Ga.
Rating: ESPN, Rivals: Four star | 247: Three star
Tucker High School was one of the best teams in the state of Georgia this past season in the 6A ranks, and their success on the defensive side could largely be attributed to the play of Sterling. He registered 15.5 sacks and added another 19.5 tackles for loss to along with 77 tackles from his defensive end spot — all of which helped Tucker to the 6A state title game where the Tigers would fall 17-7 to the eventual champs Valdosta. Sterling chose South Carolina today over Alabama, Georgia, NC State and Tennessee.
Strengths: Sterling has good speed and a sudden burst out of his stance that often catches offensive linemen off-guard on the snap. He’s very instinctive and consistently keeps his eyes in the backfield, never been thrown off by play action, read-options or veer action. Before Tucker he was at Stephenson High School where he played the 3-technique defensive tackle, where he was just as effective as he was as an edge rusher — much like former Gamecock star Melvin Ingram.
Weaknesses: As fast and sudden as he is, Sterling often relies too much on his speed alone to get past blockers. While not devoid of pass rushing moves like rips and swims, he’ll need to learn to use those moves consistently as speed alone won’t work on most SEC lineman. Sterling will sometimes tackle up high or arm-tackle once he gets in the backfield as opposed to dropping his hips and wrapping up. Others will say his size for where he’ll play is a concern, but I don’t see it as a problem.
Summary: Sterling is a very promising prospect for South Carolina, with the ability to play inside and outside on the line he’ll give the Gamecock pass rush versatility once he gets into the lineup. South Carolina graduates both of their defensive ends from last season, and Sterling has the potential to work into the rotation right away if things shake out his way. He’s got star potential and as mentioned earlier compares favorably to former Gamecock Melvin Ingram.