South Carolina Football’s GOAT Series: Top-12 defensive ends/EDGE players of all-time

Ranking the top-12 defensive ends/EDGE players in South Carolina football history

South Carolina football's Jadeveon Clowney with a sack against Missouri in 2012. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina football's Jadeveon Clowney with a sack against Missouri in 2012. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /
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In football, one of the most important jobs on the field is the EDGE spot. Defensive ends (and sometimes outside linebackers) rush the passer and set the edge in the run game. The South Carolina football program has had some elite EDGE players in its history. For the sake of this ranking, outside linebackers who played at the line of scrimmage will be considered EDGE players along with defensive ends.

Honorable Mentions

Darius English: Darius English (2012-2016) was a pass rush specialist who began his career as a 215-pound defensive end despite being 6’6″ tall. The skinny English was not able to contribute much early in his career just because of how small he was. As he worked on his body, English became a useful rotational piece as a junior but really broke out as a senior. An All-SEC 2016 was highlighted by 8 sacks and 13 tackles for loss.

Chris Rumph: A career utility player who didn’t focus on being an EDGE player until his redshirt senior season, Chris Rumph (1990-1994) contributed in numerous ways for the Gamecock defense in the early 1990s. He finally found his place in 1994 as he sacked the quarterback 6 times but logged an impressive 20 quarterback hurries. Rumph’s high motor was a major factor in him getting an NFL look before beginning his 25+ year coaching career.

Dante Sawyer: Dante Sawyer (2014-2017) played both inside and outside during the transition from Steve Spurrier to Will Muschamp in Columbia. He was a useful player but never lived up to his significant recruiting hype until he became entrenched as the starter at defensive end as a senior. His solid play was highlighted by his ridiculous nation-leading 5 forced fumbles. The Gamecocks recovered all five loose balls en route to the best year of Will Muschamp’s Gamecock coaching era.

Karey Johnson: A pass rush specialist from Athens, Georgia, Karey Johnson (1978-1982) spurned his hometown Bulldogs to play for South Carolina. Johnson only started a handful of games during his Gamecock career, but he made an impact. His 9-sack junior season is one of the top sack marks in a single season in Gamecock history.

DJ Wonnum: DJ Wonnum (2016-2019) was a combination defensive end and outside linebacker who was just a two-star recruit out of high school. One of the best recruiting evaluations ever, Wonnum became an All-SEC player after contributing 14 sacks and almost 30 tackles for loss across his injury-riddled career. He was an extremely athletic EDGE player at Carolina, and he is now headed into his fourth year in the NFL after being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings.

Tony Guyton: Lightly used early in his career, Tony Guyton (1981-1985) became a solid EDGE player for the 1984 Black Magic Gamecocks and the following season. Guyton was undersized as a defensive end but still logged over 175 tackles during his final two seasons in Columbia. Guyton’s 1985 efforts earned him All-South Independent honors, and he had one of his finest performances against the rival Clemson Tigers as he had 10 tackles, including two for a loss.

George Gause: George Gause (2001-2004) came to Columbia with tons of hype. Viewed as one of the best defensive end recruits in the nation, he was expected to come in and dominate. That never came to fruition, but Gause was a solid player for four seasons as a Gamecock. His 15 sacks still rank in the top-10 all-time in program history, even if his career wasn’t full of accolades.

Willie McIntee: Another undersized defensive end, Willie McIntee (1982-1986) played opposite of Tony Guyton for part of his career. The pair of smaller EDGE players performed above expectations and made plays on a defense that played hard. The “Fire Ant” defense of 1984 was McIntee’s best overall season as he logged 80 tackles and 4 sacks.

Clifton Geathers: Clifton Geathers (2007-2009) was a mountainous man. At 6’7″ and 285 pounds, he was still athletic enough to play defensive end. After missing much of his freshman year with injury, he burst onto the scene as a disruptive presence on the 2008 defense. Geathers did not light up the box score with big tackle or sack totals, but his impact was felt every snap. Big #96 had a six-year NFL career after being selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Moe Thompson: An extremely talented defensive lineman, Moe Thompson (2002-2004) was a freshman All-American as a utility defensive lineman. An athletic freak at 280 pounds, Thompson started almost every game of his career when active. He faced some minor disciplinary issues but didn’t miss time. After the 2004 brawl with Clemson, Thompson was facing a suspension but that suspension became a permanent dismissal from the team after an offseason burglary arrest. He finished his career at Grambling State.