Newcomers To Spice Up Spring Practice
While the skill players often steal the headlines, South Carolina will receive a much needed boost in the trenches this spring. Four of the six newcomers reside along the defensive line, while another newcomer will jump into the mix on the offensive line. With USC returning all but one defensive lineman from a year ago, there promises to be a number of heated position battles along the defensive front.
Defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye, who measures in at a solid 6'1 and 295 pounds, spent a year at Hargrave Military Academy before joining the Gamecocks, and while he was highly touted coming out of high school, the athletic Ajiboye has been able to reshape his body over the last year and now appears primed to challenge for early playing time at USC. Ajiboye is explosive off the line, and he already possesses the combination of size and strength to compete early at the SEC level. He will battle for early playing time against a host of returning defensive tackles, including battle tested linemen Marque Hall, Nathan Pepper, Lemuel Jeanpierre, and Joel Reaves.
Ajiboye will be joined by his former Hargrave teammate Clifton Geathers. The 6'7, 270 pound Geathers was considered one of the premier prospects in the Palmetto State coming out of Carver's Bay High School in 2006, and after a year at prep school, he enters the spring with high expectations of his own. Many believe that Geathers' best position may ultimately be at offensive tackle, but the athletic and rangy newcomer prefers to play along the defensive line. He will start out at defensive end, the position he excelled at in prep school, but with his tall and still relatively lean frame, he could easily grow into a 320+ pound defensive tackle down the road. Although he is still raw as a player, Geathers' possesses the uncanny athleticism that may be too good to keep off the field.
Defensive line coach Brad Lawing will also welcome in one of his prized recruits this spring in 4-star defensive end Travian Robertson. The 6'4, 250 pound Robertson was widely considered to be one of the top strongside defensive ends in the country in 2006, and he will jump into the mix for immediate playing time at the depth deprived defensive end position. Robertson, who showcased his talents at the Shrine Bowl and the Offense-Defense All American game following his senior season, has been a fixture in the weight room since arriving on campus, and has gained close to twenty pounds of muscle in Mark Smith's strength and conditioning program. Robertson is physically impressive as a freshman, and he excels against defending both the run and the pass. With returning starter Casper Brinkley moving to outside linebacker and reserve defensive end Ryan Brown moving to fullback, Robertson is already listed as the second team defensive end entering into the spring.
The final defensive newcomer to keep an eye on this spring is JUCO 4-star defensive end Jonathan Williams. The 6'2, 280 pound Williams was considered one of the top overall players in the talent-rich Mississippi JUCO ranks last season, and he enters the spring with the reputation of harassing opposing quarterbacks. Williams has a great motor, as he always plays from snap to whistle, and he is physical enough to challenge for early playing time. He has the size and versatility to play either defensive end or defensive tackle, but he enters the spring listed as the second team defensive end opposite Robertson.
On the offensive side of the ball, JUCO 4-star wide receiver Larry Freeman enters the spring with high expectations. The 6'2, 220 pound Freeman is an athletic playmaker who possesses soft hands and uses his size to fight through tackles. With the departure of All-SEC receiver Sidney Rice to the NFL, many believe that Freeman's arrival will help fill the void left by Rice. Freeman will jockey for positioning on the depth chart with returning receivers Kenny McKinley, Jared Cook, Moe Brown, Freddie Brown, and Mike West, but if Freeman lives up to his billing, he will earn a starting role alongside McKinley.
The most publicized arrival this spring was supposed to be that of highly touted Tampa, FL quarterback Stephen Garcia, but after a couple of incidents with the law, the 6'3, 220 pound Garcia has been suspended from team activities through the summer.
The final offensive newcomer this spring is offensive lineman Ryan Broadhead, who is coming off an extremely productive grayshirt period. The 6'5, 290 pound Broadhead worked out at a professional gym in Atlanta during the fall and added nearly thirty pounds of muscle to his frame. With the Gamecocks needing to replace three interior offensive line starters from the 2006 squad, Broadhead enters the spring with hopes of earning a starting spot. The versatile Broadhead is capable of playing many positions along the line, but he will receive a tryout at center in the spring in an effort to help replace the departed Chris White. With a wide open depth chart, Broadhead's dedication during his grayshirt period is expected pay off, as he will have every opportunity to work his way into the lineup this spring.
Returning players beware, these newcomers are now on campus and ready to get the spring underway, and as Coach Steve Spurrier has stated many times, no job is safe.
Stay tuned to GamecockAnthem.com for extensive coverage of South Carolina's spring practice, which is set to start up on Tuesday, March 20.
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