COLUMBIA, SC (TheBigSpur.com) - All-everything defensive end Jadeveon Clowney may get all of the publicity, but South Carolina defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward has been quick to point out that the Gamecocks' defensive line is more than just Clowney.
Fans, of course, know Clowney and most Gamecocks know about the ability of defensive end Chaz Sutton and defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles. But the likely fourth starter on the line, defensive tackle J.T. Surratt, may be a different story.
Unlike the Gamecocks other three starters, the redshirt junior was not very highly recruited out of high school. The 6-foot-2, 307-pound prospect was scouted by then-defensive line coach Brad Lawing, who fell in love with Surratt's raw athleticism. The Winston-Salem, N.C. product combined for 37 sacks and 200 tackles in his final two seasons of high school ball. He chose the Gamecocks over Louisville, East Carolina, Marshall and Western Carolina.
Surratt has played mainly a reserve role during the last two seasons after redshirting as a freshman, but is now the Gamecocks' likely starter in their season opener against North Carolina next Thursday.
"This camp has gone great," Surratt said. "I got better in a lot of areas from last year. I see myself doing a lot of big things this year. I want to be better and I'm going to be better. When I'm out there on the field, I'm going to make the plays when they present themselves."
Surratt has always has the natural ability. He runs a 4.9-second 40-yard-dash and can dunk a basketball from a stand-still, despite tipping the scales at over 300 pounds. Surratt's issues before were mainly about consistency. He needed to display consistent effort and consistency in using the techniques his coaches were teaching him in order for him to use that athleticism to become a great football player.
Defensive line coach Deke Adams challenged Surratt in camp and he's responded.
"J.T. has really stepped it up this fall camp and really done a good job, so he's holding the edge [to be a starter] right now," Adams said recently.
Surratt says he's also been pushed by the talent around him at the position.
"Everybody on the d-line is pushing me to want me to be on my A-game every day," Surratt said. "Everybody on that defensive line are great guys, great players. They push me to want to be great. They push me to want to be better. Every day I come out here, I want to be on my A-game. I want to push them, they want to push me, we want to get better as a team."
Surratt prides himself on being explosive off the football and believes that's a characteristic that will give the Gamecocks' defensive line an edge over the teams they face.
"Coming off the ball [quickly] is one of our main goals on the defensive line," Surratt said. "We want to be able to beat the offensive lineman off the ball every play. We feel like no offensive lineman should be able to stop us because we're faster and stronger, so we feel as if coming off the ball is one of our big things when we're playing. That initial shock is going to be big coming off the ball."
And as for Clowney? Surratt doesn't mine all the attention he gets. He's just glad to have the opportunity to now likely be a starter alongside him.
"Whenever you've got one of the best players in the nation playing beside you, there's always going to be opportunities for plays to present itself and you've got to take advantage," Surratt says. "With him playing on the other side, it's going to create attention towards him and it's going to free me up at times. When the time presents itself, I'm going to try to make plays."