Anatomy of a Problem
The 2012 Gamecocks’ biggest weakness appears to be depth on the defensive line. Yesterday, Coach Crowe announced that virtually every line spot other than Dimetrio Tyson would be up for competition. While we may have been looking with rose colored glasses, it should have been apparent that there was a potential for problems on the defensive front when JSU went into Arkansas with a former quarterback starting at defensive end, a converted offensive lineman as the backup defensive tackle and a converted tight end on the two deep.
The current lack of depth appears to be the result of: 1) not signing many defensive linemen in 2009 and 2010; 2) attrition; and 3) untimely injuries and/or suspensions. A review of JSU’s online media guides and other sources shows the following defensive line signees/additions by year:
David Maness (a highly regarded player who never played significant time and appears to be off of the team)
Denzell Cheeks (converted to tight end)
Torrey Davis (transfer, only played one year)
Mike Lewis (now at Valdosta State)
Armani Williams (we believe he is now at Delta State)
Erik Bailey (may have been a walk-on. No longer on the roster)
Tim McGee (transfer, only played one year)
Barry Stafford (came to the program late, but is #2 on the depth chart)
Bryant Hawkins (played some in 2011, but left the program)
Marquis George (juco transfer out of eligibility)
Caleb Lawrence (current starter)
Adam Wright (currently #2 on the depth chart)
Martez House (current co-starter)
Jakari Kinnie (no longer on the team)
Ked Wolfe (apparently redshirting)
Cody Sanfratello (walk on transfer from South Florida)
Omari Jones (transfer from Georgia Southern and JUCO that has to sit out this year)
PROBLEM #1 – 2009 AND 2010.
Much like running a vineyard, your current product is the fruit of your labor years ago. Looking at the above information, it is easy to see where the problem lies. Of all of the incoming defensive lineman for 2009 and 2010 (the guys that would be juniors and seniors now), the only one left is Barry Stafford, currently working as a reserve. Note- Dimetrio Tyson, the undisputed leader of the defensive line, came in in 2008 and redshirted.
In contrast, the Gamecocks appeared to go 3 for 4 in recruiting defensive lineman in 2011. Lawrence is a starter and Watson and Wright are playing meaningful snaps. The only loss from that class was Kinnie, a 3 Star Recruit from Gadsden that switched to JSU from Georgia State on signing day. Not sure why he is no longer on the roster.
PROBLEM #2- Lack of Eligibility of Two Key Players.
The Gamecocks brought in two JUCO transfers, Ked Wolfe and Omari Jones, who might be good enough to be starters this year. Unfortunately, neither is eligible to play this year. The loss of Wolfe is particuarly devastating as he was brought in specifically to replace Texas Garrott.
PROBLEM #3- Near Misses.
The Gamecocks narrowly missed on three players in 2012, all of whom would have materially contributed this year. Derrick Lott, a four star transfer from Georgia, wanted to come to Jacksonville State, but academic hurdles made it impossibile. Lucas Melo, a three star JUCO defensive lineman, committed to JSU, but then signed with South Alabama. Finally, the Gamecocks had a verbal commitment from a three star Mississippi product, who ended up signing with Cal. There are others as well.
The problems on the defensive line appear to be short term. Everyone returns from the current roster except Tyson and Mike Whittier. Young players like Jordan Jackson and Sean Watson appear to be progressing. Presumably, Wolfe and Omari Jones will be available next year. Hopefully, however, the Gamecocks can right the ship this year and get back to playing Red Bandit defense.