Kalan Ritchie will line up at tight end when the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas commences here Saturday.
The position he will play in college is not set in stone, but the Goose Creek standout and class of 2014 USC pledge has a preference.
“I want to play at defensive end,” Ritchie said this week during Shrine Bowl practice. “They’re going to put me at both sides and see how I do, see what I’m better at. We’ll see when I get up there.”
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Ritchie committed to the Gamecocks in April as a tight end, a spot in which he built a reputation as a strong and aggressive blocker. Goose Creek’s plan was to keep him there and continue to develop his receiving skills.
Those plans changed when Ritchie swapped sides of the trenches during an August practice at the Lowcountry high school.
“I came out there and tried out at defensive end,” he said. “They saw I was doing pretty good at it, so they threw me in there.”
Ritchie played both ways through Goose Creek’s first three games, recording one reception before making the move to defense full time.
Seventy-one tackles, 16 tackles for loss, 15 quarterback pressures and four sacks later, he had exceeded his own expectations.
“I was expecting to be average at it,” he said. “But I was actually above average, I would say.”
Ritchie and fellow USC commit Joe Blue of Dillon have practiced on offense and defense this week at the Shrine Bowl. Blue, pegged as a fullback for the Gamecocks and in this week’s all-star game, played mostly at linebacker this season at Dillon after scoring 18 touchdowns on offense in 2012.
Where they play for the Gamecocks could be known when preseason practice begins in August, but that’s not a guarantee. Current freshman Pharoh Cooper signed as a defensive back but quickly moved to offense. Running back signee Jamari Smith bounced to cornerback and then back to offense as the season went along.
Blue (5-11, 235) spoke with recruiter Shawn Elliott last week about the future.
“I’ll probably be on offense,” Blue said. “I’m not worried about it. Offense or defense, I’m just ready.”
Ritchie also isn’t stressing over what might happen. Still, he said, defense is more fun.
“I’m more of an aggressive player,” Ritchie said. “At defensive end you have more responsibility to be aggressive playing against big offensive linemen. I like to get after the quarterback mostly.”