Deboo Samuel was revealed as our number five most important player for South Carolina this upcoming season, and the number four slot turns to the defensive side of the ball with sophomore defensive end D.J. Wonnum.
After a productive and promising true freshman season that included 32 total tackles and 3.5 tackles-for-loss, D.J. Wonnum is going to be relied on heavily up front for the Gamecocks’ defense. His best performance of the season came against East Carolina University, where he finished with four solo tackles, two tackles for loss, and a sack. D.J.’s numbers should only increase with the valuable time on the field he earned as a freshman. Look for D.J. to impress the SEC with his 2017 campaign.
Wonnum is expected to help patch up the loss of last years most explosive pass rusher for the Gamecocks, defensive lineman Darius English, who finished with a team high nine sacks. Wonnum, 6-foot-4, 251-pounds, is a physical presence that has the ability to get off the ball quickly and help put pressure on the quarterback. The Gamecocks will need his 1.5 sacks from last season to increase if their defense wants to be taken seriously within the SEC. They ranked 92nd in sacks in the country with 21, which was also 11th in the SEC.
Wonnum is fortunate enough to have seniors Dante Sawyer and Taylor Stallworth on the defensive line to guide him. Sawyer and Stallworth could help mentor the young talent that is Wonnum and mold him into a defensive star for the Gamecocks that many think he will one day be. All three of these Gamecocks need to improve on their pass rush skills as a unit.
D.J. Wonnum’s productivity as a true-freshman was impressive and effective. Hopefully with a year under his belt and an offseason with new Strength and Conditioning Coach Jeff Dillman’s guidance, Wonnum will have a key role and large impact for the Gamecock defense. D.J. has the ability to be one of the SEC’s best young talents at his position and he will get his chance to prove that this season.
So how can Wonnum to live up to the hype and glorious achievement of making our most important player’s list? Hope for around 50 total tackles, seven tackles-for-loss, and over five sacks. With these stats, Wonnum will live up to the hype that Gamecock Nation has been building up.