1. Jamarcus King, CB
King is the No. 1 junior college recruit in his class and arrives at South Carolina’s position of most need. A year ago, USC’s defense had to play back, ceding short – and intermediate – gains trying to prevent long ones. King comes in as the best option to get in a receiver’s face and flip the dynamic. Should live up to potential, he’ll produce a ripple effect on the depth chart in the secondary, strengthening the position overall.
2. Marquavius Lewis, DE
Lewis came to Columbia as a top-rated recruit, someone the last staff said could reinvigorate a defense that fell on hard times. Lewis started every game, contributed a workmanlike 45 tackles and filled the right end spot well. But his 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks didn’t exactly pop off the page. The junior college transfer from Greenwood might have the most potential of anyone on the team, and the new staff praised his work ethic again. If defensive line coach Lance Thompson can get the 6-foot-4, 270 pounder to fulfill his promise, he could be the best player USC has on defense.
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3. Bryson Allen-Williams, LB
The question is, how flexible can the staff be with him? Ideally, the junior augments South Carolina’s pass rush, working at Buck and attacking. But his natural position is at one of the inside linebacker spots (likely weakside), and with Skai Moore missing 2016, he’ll have to help fill in. Coaches have raved about Allen-Williams’ ability through the spring, and he’ll be used somewhere.
4. Kelsey Griffin, DT
South Carolina’s defensive line has been ground zero for the glut of high-rated recruits who haven’t delivered on the hype, and Griffin’s a notable member of the list. After being rated a top-100 recruit out of high school, he hasn’t started a game in three years (he’s played in 26). He showed flashes in 2015 and Griffin has a high ceiling if he can be consistent.
5. Chris Lammons, CB/S
Safety Jordan Diggs finished just short of this spot, but Lammons is listed as a starter in two different spots, and that’s hard to beat. With so much uncertainty, he might prove to be Johnny-on-the-spot to fill a weak link. If Rico McWilliams isn’t effective, Lammons might end up at cornerback. If Rashad Fenton is too green, Lammons might be in the slot. And if the corner spots are solid, the junior might be injected into an unclear safety situation.