The fact that South Carolina newcomer Abu Lamin will wear No. 99 almost certainly will draw comparisons of himself to Kelcy Quarles, the All-SEC defensive lineman who donned that number at USC for the past three years.
Both stand 6-foot-4 and a few biscuits shy of 300 pounds. Their body types are about the same – powerful upper bodies with a large barrel chest. From a distance, the only difference is the dreadlocks flowing from underneath’s Lamin’s helmet.
Lamin, from Fayetteville, N.C., has the same expectations as the departed Quarles.
“The coaches expect me to come in here and contribute and do big things,” Lamin said. “That’s what they expected when they recruited me, and that’s what I expected to do for them.”
As for wearing No. 99, that happened by chance, but he understands the expectations.
“I definitely need to perform,” Lamin said. “I know the coaches have high expectations for me and I want to put on and do great things for them.”
The USC coaching staff is excited by what they’ve seen this spring.
“Abu is real strong, real powerful and has a great punch,” defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward said. “He just has to learn what we’re doing. He’s got a lot of promise.”
That praise was repated by Deke Adams, his position coach along the defensive line.
“He’s quick, he’s got some physical hands and he’s got a great punch,” Adams said. “He’s just an incoming freshman right now, his head is swimming like crazy. We’ve thrown a lot at him. He’s just got to get caught up mentally to get ready.”
Lamin enrolled in January after playing last season at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, where he finished with 34 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in nine games. He was rated a four-star prospect by 247Sports and Rivals and a top-20 junior college prospect in the country by both. He will have three seasons to play three after redshirting his first season at Fort Scott.
Lamin believes being able to go through the process of spring practice will be a huge benefit come preseason camp. The learning curve with the playbook has been the biggest adjustment.
“This is a great advantage that I came in early. I’m blessed. I have a head start on everybody coming this summer,” Lamin said. “I need to adapt and learn the playbook. The coaches like my skill set and what I bring to the table.”
The transition from junior college has been challenging. Lamin thought going from hish school to junior college was a big jump, but it pales in comparison to what he has experienced at USC.
“I’ve worked harder, strength and conditioning-wise, than I ever have,” Lamin said. “Coach Joe (Connolly) has made me a better player, and I can definitely feel it. Practice had been really fast and intense. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Lamin will battle holdovers J.T. Surratt, Gerald Dixon Jr, Phillip Dukes and Kelsey Griffin for playing time, and he is excited about the challenge. He knows nothing will be handed to him.
“You earn everything around here, and I expect to earn it,” Lamin said. “There are great players here, and to contribute with those guys is awesome. It’s great to be a Gamecock.”