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South Carolina Gamecocks positional previews: Defensive Line

With the addition of a few key players, this year's d-line is sure to generate a lot more favor amongst the fan base.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Who's gone?

Deon Green, Mason Harris, J.T. Surratt, Devin Washington, Michael Washington

Who's back?

Cedrick Cooper, Gerald Dixon, Gerald Dixon, Jr., Philip Dukes, Darius English, Kelsey Griffin, David Johnson, Abu Lamin, Taylor Stallworth

Who's new?

Shameik Blackshear, Qua Lewis, Boosie Whitlow, Dexter Wideman, Dante Sawyer, Ulric Jones

Key Stat: 14

In South Carolina's 13 total games in 2014, the defense earned a mere 14 total sacks. A number bad enough to put them seventh worse in the nation last year amongst FBS teams, ranking 118 out of 125 (Utah led the nation with 55, averaging just over four a game). That number needs to grow significantly if the defense hopes to be feared as a force to be reckoned with in 2015.

To make matters worse, the Gamecocks defensive line opened up running lanes for the opposition that resulted in an average of 212 rushing yards allowed per game (Also ranking in the bottom cellar of the FBS).

The Scoop

Last year's front line defensive statistics are the bad. The good is that the coaching staff has taken the necessary steps and efforts to ensure 2015 doesn't serve as a repeat disaster. With the arrival of Jon Hoke, Lo Ward won't have his hands full scheming for an entire defense, and can instead focus his attention to the front four.

Along with staff changes, JUCO standout Qua Lewis, prep star Dexter Wideman and Under Armour All-American Shameik Blackshear head a core of new guys coming in with band-aids and peroxide in hand ready to patch-up the ever porous group. Other guys to keep an eye on include newly appointed starting defensive end Cedrick Cooper and another JUCO transfer, Dante Sawyer.

As for the other guys, look for a more supportive role to come from last year's DE starter Gerald Dixon and RS senior DT Philip Dukes.

At the very least, South Carolina's defensive front possess more skill and athleticism to it's depth than last year. Will they return to the dominance from Clowney, Quarles and company from '13? Probably not. But the fire is burning inside each and every one of them to prove themselves this time around.