Will Muschamp has made it no secret that the defensive end position is a top recruiting priority for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
While the 2017 class holds some promise with the additions of four-star commits Javon Kinlaw, MJ Webb and Brad Johnson, after missing out on the nation’s top defensive end prospect in Xavier Thomas, adding an elite pass rusher to the 2018 class has become that much more important for Muschamp and Co.
Here is a look at two dominant defensive ends who have the Gamecocks high on their college lists.
K.J. Henry | 5-star WDE | West Forsyth (Clemmons, NC)
A five-star prospect and the No. 2 weak-side defensive end in the nation per 247 Sports Composite rankings, K.J. Henry should be the consensus top target at the position for the Gamecocks.
At 6-foot-5 and 1/2, 235 pounds, Henry plays with a speed that most offensive tackles simply are not athletic enough to contend with. This was on full display on Sunday at The Opening Regional in Charlotte, where his first step and initial burst off the line allowed him to consistently win in one-on-one drills and earned him an invite to the Finals.
Henry advertises himself as a pure pass rusher, but he also spends time at linebacker, on special teams and even occasionally at tight end for West Forsyth. While he will specialize as a defensive end at the next level, this versatility will allow him to essentially be a chess-piece for college coordinators.
Right now Clemson is considered the heavy favorite to land Henry, but South Carolina is in his top five and still very much in play. Henry plans to make all five of his official visits and then sign with a school during December’s new three-day signing period.
Stephon Wynn, Jr. | 4-star SDE | IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)
If Stephon Wynn’s high school name (IMG Academy) looks familiar, it’s because it is. He attends the same sports-focused boarding school as the aforementioned Xavier Thomas. Similar to Thomas, Wynn is originally from South Carolina. He transferred to IMG after his sophomore year at TL Hanna in Anderson, SC.
While Wynn, the No. 98 overall prospect in the country, does not have the speed or raw athleticism that have scouts drooling over prospects like Thomas (No. 2 overall) or Henry (No. 18), his grasp on the tangible aspects of the game is outright impressive.
At 6-foot-4, 260 pounds, Wynn is already playing around his frame’s max capacity. He appears to be fairly far along in his development as well, displaying excellent use of hands and enough awareness to use opposing lineman’s momentum to his advantage. Wynn rarely attempts to win on the edge, instead relying on his strength and technique to get either past or quite literally through his opposition.
In addition to USC, he is being recruited heavily by Clemson, Georgia, Alabama and LSU, with Clemson, Georgia and USC thought to be his top three. However, Tony Morrell of The Big Spur reported in April that Wynn is under the impression that Clemson is full on the defensive line, meaning that his decision will likely come down to Georgia and South Carolina.