It pits a former starter and upperclassman against a former blue chip recruit in his second year at South Carolina and perhaps even a freshman fresh on campus.
This isn’t the highest profile position battle for the Gamecocks football team, but shoring up the bigger end spot could go a long way to fixing USC’s defensive issues up front. The top two contenders are Aaron Sterling and Kingsley Enagbare, both former in-demand recruits.
“Both of those guys did a lot of good things for us,” defensive line coach John Scott Jr. said. “I think both of those guys will have an opportunity to really help this football team. I think both those guys are really good football players too.”
Coming out of spring, there wasn’t much clarity as to who might’ve had the edge. Sterling took the first-team reps in the spring game, but Enagbare possesses a good bit of talent.
Sterling opened 2018 as a somewhat surprising starter at an undersized 245 pounds. He made 15 tackles and a sack but was limited to eight games and battled a knee injury.
Enagbare, a four-star recruit ranked in the top 270 players in his class, came into college as an end, but was moved inside because the team boasted depth on the outside. He made 20 tackles, three for loss and a sack, occasionally playing outside, and was moved back to end full time this offseason.
“Great competition,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “Really excited about them. Joe Anderson, a young player coming in our program too. But we’ve got great competition up front.”
Anderson, a freshman, is 6-foot-3, 270 pounds. He anchored a state champion defense in Tennessee and had 16 tackles for loss while battling through injuries. A top-150 recruit, he joins a growing group of blue chip players on the defensive line.
The staff plans to rotate players up front plenty, so it might be more about who plays most, but the position took a hit coming off a solid 2017 season.
That year, Keir Thomas, now a tackle, started nearly every game at that big end spot, sharing time with Dante Sawyer. The pair combined for 78 tackles, five sacks and six forced fumbles.
That end position operates as a stouter presence compared to the more versatile Bucks on the other side and in three-down looks play heads-up on opposing linemen absorbing blocks.
At the moment, it seems Sterling and Enagbare are the top two options, but they’ve got a ways to go before settling things heading into the season.
“We’ll see more with that battle as we go into fall camp,” Scott said. “But I think both of those guys played really well for us in the spring, which is really good.”