South Carolina’s Rick Sandidge: I will be ‘a different person’ in sophomore year
“We’re going to be thick,” the sophomore said.
The group has a batch of veterans, four blue-chip underclassmen and a coaching staff that believes the Gamecocks can never have enough depth. And joining that group is 6-foot-4, 280-pound junior college lineman Devontae Davis, who has to weather the transition from that level to the SEC as he hopes to carve out a role.
He joined the team last December, going through a few pre-bowl practices, and has been in the mix all spring.
“Devonte has shown some flashes,” lineman Jabari Ellis, who redshirted after joining the team from junior college, said. “But just like how it was for me, it’s a learning process. Nobody really comes in and dominates from the jump.
“He’s getting it through. He’s looking real good.”
Davis, a Silver Bluff High School product, posted 30 tackles, 10 for loss, and four sacks in 10 junior college games last season. He was a three-star prospect out of Georgia Military College and played one season with Ellis.
South Carolina tested all its depth last season, after a rash of injuries meant 15 defensive linemen registered at least four tackles. Many of those players come back, so it will take work for anyone to get snaps.
But Davis has potential.
“He can ball,” linebacker Sherrod Greene said. “He just has to catch up on the plays, memorize the plays because you know he’s new. I like his game. I expect a lot from him.”
The Gamecocks have seen a fair amount of production from the smaller group of junior college players they’ve added the past few years:
CB Jamarcus King: Two-year starter
DB Steven Montac: 20 starts in 33 games
DT Javon Kinlaw: Quickly forced his way into the lineup, made 22 starts in 25 healthy games
DB Keisean Nixon: Started 11 games last season after playing mostly special teams in 2017
OT Dennis Daley: Started 23 of his final 24 games
LB Eldridge Thompson: Played in 12 games his first year, missed most of last season with a shoulder injury
Beyond them, Ellis has had his smaller role and Kaleb Chalmers didn’t play a game in his one year.
Ellis and Davis obviously have ties, both coming from South Carolina and playing together in Milledgeville, Georgia. But the older lineman didn’t necessarily take steps to provide hands-on guidance.
He instead learned from another veteran the best course for Davis.
“When I came in, Javon Kinlaw, me and him have known each other since high school,” Ellis said. “So he kind of like let me be. He was like, ‘It takes time, you’re going to get it.’ So I kind of did the same thing.”