South Carolina Football: The transfer portal is opening; what positions do the Gamecocks need to hit hardest?

South Carolina football. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
South Carolina football. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) /
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South Carolina Football
South Carolina football 7th-year senior Jordan Strachan is finally done playing college football. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /

South Carolina Football Transfer Portal Needs:
EDGE/Defensive End

This one comes with qualifiers.

South Carolina’s defense switched to a 3-3-5 as their primary defensive set at the end of this season, and the results were much better. In a 3-3-5, teams play bigger defensive ends and typically will rush a linebacker or two in pursuit of the quarterback. The linebackers did a pretty good job of affecting the passing game this season both in the A-gap and in wide-9s.

They still use the 4-2-5 at times (and it was the primary look for defensive coordinator Clayton White before the end of this year), and the defensive ends are a little different.

In the 3-3-5, the Gamecocks would usually have at least one (sometimes two) bigger players at defensive end like athletic defensive tackles Tonka Hemingway or TJ Sanders unless they were in a “rabbits” pass rush package. In the 4-2-5, there is usually at least one (sometimes two) smaller pass-rush types at defensive end like Jordan Strachan and Bryan Thomas.

With a poor effort rushing the passer this season, South Carolina will need to add some players who can get after the quarterback for next fall. 5-star incoming freshman Dylan Stewart and fellow class of 2024 hybrid LB/EDGE players Wendell Gregory and Fred Johnson will try to help fix the issue, but veterans Jordan Strachan and Tyreek Johnson will both be gone.

To avoid putting too much on Stewart and company during their freshmen campaigns, the Gamecocks could use an instant-impact addition coming off the edge. Assuming that the Gamecocks stick with the 3-3-5, another pass-rushing linebacker probably isn’t the direction USC will go, but a big, athletic defensive end to rotate with Hemingway and Sanders is needed.

It is worth noting that Carolina already has Elijah Davis who fits that archetype, though he didn’t see a ton of action in 2023. Talented returners Desmond Umeozulu and Bryan Thomas are built for the rabbits package, and JT Geer is a physical clone of the graduating Strachan.

If all of those players step up, and the Gamecocks hold on to Hemingway and Sanders (both of whom have had mild NFL Draft talk surrounding them), there is no need for Shane Beamer’s squad to add another defensive end. However, assuming those players will emerge is a gamble, and the staff may try to hedge their bet a bit by scouring the transfer portal.

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