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Defensive line a position of strength in 2020 class


Moncks Corner – With more than a half dozen players expected to sign major college scholarships by next February, the 2020 class of defensive linemen is one of the top positions in South Carolina.

All-star coaches in the Palmetto State should have no problem finding enough capable players to fill the rosters of the Shrine Bowl and the North-South all-star games this fall.

The state is home to what some consider the best defensive end in the entire country in Hammond senior Jordan Burch. The 6-5, 270-pound Burch has a final three list of Clemson, South Carolina and Georgia and has refused comment as to which direction he may be leaning.

Burch is so athletic that he plays running back for coach Erik Kimrey, rushing for more than 600 yards in a state championship season last year. He also tallied more than 10 sacks and 15 tackles for loss from his more prominent position on the defensive line.

Hammond also is home to another of the top five defensive linemen in the state as Alex Huntley, a 6-4, 300-pound tackle already has verbally committed to South Carolina. Huntley had more than 70 tackles last season.

Another top five lineman is Chester senior Quay Evans, who plays inside at 6-3, 280-pounds for the defending Class AAA state champions. Evans has narrowed his list down to six schools with Oregon leading the way for his services. Also in the mix are UCF, West Virginia, UNC Charlotte and Liberty. He plans an announcement prior to the start of the 2019 season.

Evans describes himself as a team player and works hard as a leader on the team.

“On our defense, I have to sacrifice a lot in terms of stats for the success of the team,” Evans says. “I just play. I play hard on every snap and try to make my teammates better.”

Evans is hoping to close out his prep career with another state championship but realizes how hard it is to repeat. Staying focused is a big key.

 “We have to avoid getting complacent,” Evans said. “Sometimes a team that has as much success as we’ve had can start to think they have arrived. We can’t have that mindset and our coaches make sure we understand that this is a new season. Our biggest thing is to just work twice as hard and try to be better.”

Cheraw’s Xavier McIver (6-2, 285) had 10 sacks from his inside tackle position last season. McIver has quick feet and is very strong, boasting a 350-pound bench press and a 500-pound squat.

McIver favors UCF in his recruiting. The Golden Knights have offered, along with Temple, South Carolina, West Virginia and East Carolina.

Conway’s Tonka Hemingway is another of the top performers on the defensive front. The 6-2, 265-pounder is exceptionally quick for his size with good power and strength. He tallied 20 tackles for loss in 2019. Late word has Hemingway deciding between North Carolina and South Carolina with a decision expected soon.

Fort Dorchester has one of the top defensive lines in the state this fall and two seniors are getting plenty of college attention.

End Emmanuel Johnson (6-5, 250) has early offers from Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Wake Forest and Western Kentucky. He is the son of former women’s basketball star Katrina McClain, who won two Olympic gold medals and was the national player of the year at Georgia in the late 1980’s.

“He’s really just now learning the game and learning how good he can be,” Fort Dorchester head coach Steve LaPrad said. “His best football is ahead of him. I can see big things for him at the next level.”

Playing inside for the Patriots is Brandon Johnson, a 6-3, 280-pound tackle. Johnson moved down from New Jersey before last season and was under the radar for a bit. He now has several offers with a final five consisting of Furman, Coastal Carolina, Navy, Florida International and Florida Atlantic.

Battery Creek defensive end Brandon Wilson (6-1. 225) has verbally committed to Georgia Southern.

Dutch Fork’s Trey Irby (6-1, 260) is receiving plenty of FCS interest after racking up more than 70 tackles and 10 tackles for loss for the Class AAAAA state champions.

Spring Valley’s Dallas Carraway (5-11, 270) is also receiving FCS interest from the likes of Furman, Wofford and South Carolina State.

Devin Ray of First Baptist (6-0, 264) bench presses 350 pounds and has taken off excess weight since last season to improve his quickness inside. Savannah State, North Greenville and Limestone are showing considerable interest.

Anchoring Daniel’s defensive front is senior end Jared Kirksey (6-2, 240). Kirksey had 88 total tackles with 15 sacks in 2019 and is primed for a big year this fall.

A key two-way performer for Oceanside Collegiate is senior tackle Myles Castain (6-0, 270). Castain excels as an offensive lineman as well as on defense.

“He’s the only one that will likely play on both lines because he’s that good,” Oceanside head coach Chad Grier said. “He has a motor, a real beast. He doesn’t want to be standing on the sidelines.”

Castain has assumed the role as leader along both lines.

“I want to be on the field, be a leader, and try to help my team as much as possible,” Castain said. “I love playing both positions but I probably like offensive line a little more. It doesn’t matter to me though. I want to play.”

Other top defensive linemen this fall include Emmanuel Bush (Lancaster), Tyree Drayton (Hanahan), Jesse Burton (Landrum), Cody Fleming (Ninety Six), Connor Graham (Powdersville), Cameron Donald (Woodmont), Carson Smith (Abbeville) and Ar’Darius Burton (Abbeville).

© 2019-2020 High School Sports Report

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