The Daily Gamecock

Academic ineligibilities impair 2014 class

Green, Lammons, Smalls, Blue trying to meet qualifying standards

It’s only July and it seems as though Spurrier and company’s plan to rebuild its defense has hit a significant roadblock.

Four signees from the Gamecocks’ 2014 recruiting class currently stand in academic limbo, with another four players already ruled ineligible.

Four-star defensive end Dante Sawyer announced plans to enroll at East Mississippi Community College, while three-star defensive end Kalan Ritchie will head to Georgia Military College, hoping to rejoin the Gamecocks in time for the 2016 season. Sawyer is expected to enroll at South Carolina before the 2015 season.

Four-star defensive lineman Dexter Wideman will enroll at Fork Union Prep in Virginia, expecting to join the squad after the 2014 season in January.

Jhaustin Thomas, who the Gamecocks nabbed in its 2012 recruiting class, was deemed academically ineligible last month after spending two seasons at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Tx. Thomas was unable to join the Gamecocks’ team initially in 2012 due to academic restrictions.

Two four-star cornerbacks in Wesley Green and Chris Lammons, as well as three-star cornerback Darin Smalls and three-star running back Joe Blue are “still trying to meet qualifying standards in time to join the Gamecocks in August,” recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. told The State.

Whether or not Green, Lammons or Smalls can qualify to play in the fall is magnified by the team’s lack of experience at the position.

South Carolina’s roster lists only four true cornerbacks, with only one — fifth-year senior Sidney Rhodes — as an upperclassman.

While the uncertainty of Green’s or Lammon’s future looms, the Gamecocks have already gotten 2014 cornerback signees D.J. Smith and Al Harris Jr. on campus and enrolled in summer classes.

Smith, a four-star recruit out of Georgia, shows incredible promise at the position and Harris Jr. has already earned praise for his high football IQ. Harris Jr. is the son of former All-Pro NFL cornerback Al Harris.

While the defensive backfield demands a wait-and-see approach, the Gamecocks know their defensive line has a long way to go now that two of their three four-star defensive linemen from their 2014 class have been ruled academically ineligible.

Fort Scott Community College transfer Abu Lamin is the lone four-star signee left in the 2014 recruiting class. Lamin enrolled at South Carolina in January, and is expected to play a significant part in the Gamecocks’ defense this year.

His chances of contributing on the defensive line were already high since he is coming in as a transfer and already has experience playing at the collegiate level, but those chances shot through the clouds when South Carolina learned that they would be without Sawyer and Wideman in 2014.

The team’s recent adoption of the 3-4 defense suits the Gamecocks even better now that they know they will be missing several playmakers on their defensive line.

Although Sawyer and Ritchie plan to enroll at South Carolina after their stints at their respective colleges, they may return to a crowded depth chart.

The Gamecocks have landed commitments from two four-star recruits at the defensive end position, including Shameik Blackshear who is considered the top defensive end in the state.