Marquavius Lewis is officially coming home.
The 6-foot-4, 278-pound defensive end signed Wednesday with South Carolina on the first day of the junior college signing period.
The Gamecocks want Lewis – the highest-rated prospect in USC’s 2015 class – to find an immediate home on their defense and help breathe life into a unit that struggled in 2014.
“They need a pass rusher who can get after the quarterback,” Lewis said. “There’s the possibility of having an immediate impact, and I haven’t been home in two years. My family can come up and watch me any time. That played a big part.”
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Lewis, who recently concluded a standout sophomore season at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, held a signing ceremony Wednesday for family and friends at Greenwood High.
He committed to the Gamecocks in late July as part of an official visit to USC. He also took official visits to Auburn, Miami and Arizona State. He narrowed his focus to USC and Auburn, and the Gamecocks held off a late push from the Tigers to land the four-star prospect.
He credited his bond with USC defensive line coach Deke Adams as a major factor in his decision to stick with the Gamecocks.
Steve Spurrier addressed Lewis’ signing after Wednesday’s practice.
“We’ve been saying for two, three, four months now that we’ve got some defensive help, we’ve got a pass rusher on the way. We’re certainly fired up that Qua is coming with us,” Spurrier said.
Lewis was named a junior college All-American and Jayhawk Conference defensive player of the year after a sophomore season at Hutchinson in which he had 63 tackles (20.5 for loss), 11 sacks, 21 quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.
He will enroll at USC in January, take part in spring practice and compete for a starting spot at defensive end for the 2015 season.
The Gamecocks will need all the help they can get on a defense that ranked 91st nationally in total defense, allowing 433.6 yards per game (most by a defense under Steve Spurrier at USC). Out of 125 teams in 2014, USC’s defense ranked No. 118 in total sacks (12) and No. 123 in tackles for loss (44).
“It’s been a long recruiting process. Now I get time to focus on what I have to do to help the Gamecocks out,” Lewis said. “As long as I can transition as well as possible, I think I can play with those guys. There will be challenges but I believe I will fit in with work ethic and a lot of effort.”
Lewis follows Greenwood High standouts D.J. Swearinger, Kelcy Quarles and Jay Spearman in signing with USC.
Lewis is a class headliner and part of a strong defensive line group the Gamecocks will sign this cycle. Dexter Wideman also will be on campus in January, counting as a prep school enrollee out of Camden Military. Defensive ends Shameik Blackshear (Bluffton), Arden Key (Lithonia, Ga.), Dante Sawyer (Suwanee, Ga.) and Quandeski Whitlow (Opelika, Ala.) are all committed and on track to sign Feb. 4.
Hutchinson defensive line coach Todd Middleton, who played against USC during his time at Wake Forest in the late 1980s, said Lewis will be physically and mentally ready to play right away in the SEC.
“He’s an older guy. He’s been in the weight room,” Middleton said. “A lot of guys come out of the junior college ranks and have great athletic ability but they need to get used to that speed of the game. He’s as big and strong as anybody he’ll face.”
The nation's top JUCO DE, Marquavius Lewis, has signed with South Carolina. It's a good Day!— Steve Spurrier Jr (@coachspurrierjr) December 17, 2014