COLUMBIA -- Quick, who led South Carolina in sacks last season?
No, it wasn't Gamecocks All-SEC defensive end Devin Taylor, who was second on the team in sacks in 2010 with 7 1/2.
No, it wasn't All-Universe freshman Jadeveon Clowney, of course. He was busy terrorizing prep quarterbacks at South Pointe High School last fall.
It was Melvin Ingram, who led the Gamecocks with 9 1/2 sacks in 2010, which was the third most in the SEC last season.
With all the hype surrounding Clowney and Taylor during the preseason, Ingram appears to be the forgotten man.
But that's OK with the fifth-year senior, who missed the entire 2008 season with a broken foot.
"Those are my teammates and they're being praised and I'm all good with that," Ingram said.
"We're all one big family, so when one of us is getting praised, it's like we're all getting praised. Those guys are my teammates, so why wouldn't I want them to get praised? I'm not worried about all that."
One person who certainly hasn't forgotten about Ingram is USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson.
"I hope our opponents forget about Melvin," Johnson said. "I hope that's the case because he'll have a big year for us. I thought he had a breakout season for us last year. He really gave us a push inside and I think his numbers speak for themselves. He has a good motor; he's relentless on his pass rush. He's been very focused during the preseason, and I think he's in for a great senior season."
Clowney, the nation's No. 1 overall recruit a year ago, has shown flashes of brilliance during the preseason, especially in two of the most recent scrimmages. His natural athletic ability is undeniable, but that isn't enough to unseat Ingram at right defensive end.
"Jadeveon has a great future ahead of him, I don't think anyone doubts that," Johnson said. "But right now, Devin is my starting left end and Melvin is my starting right end and no one is really close to either of them.
"It's going to take awhile for anyone to challenge those two at defensive end. You're talking about two very experienced, very productive players. They know what they're doing."
If there's any jealousy or animosity between Ingram and Clowney, it isn't apparent. Ingram has gone out of his way to welcome Clowney to the team. He has become the young freshman's adopted big brother and a quasi-mentor during the preseason.
"I watch everything Melvin does because that's the kind of player I want to be," Clowney said. "The way he practices, the way he goes all out on every drill, that's the way I want to be. I look up to Melvin."
And that's just fine with Ingram, who is happy to tutor the young phenom.
"(Clowney) wants to be the best player he can be and that's only going to make us a better team," Ingram said. "That's what everyone wants."
Ingram came to South Carolina in the summer of 2007 thinking he was going to play linebacker for the Gamecocks. He was rated as one of the top outside linebackers coming out of Richmond County High School in North Carolina. The idea of becoming a defensive lineman was foreign to the Hamlet, N.C., native.
"I'd never done it before, so I fought it at first. I didn't want to be a defensive lineman," Ingram said. "It took me a while to get used to the idea of putting my hand on the ground and mixing it up with all those big offensive linemen."
It was a constant battle with the Gamecocks coaching staff during his first two years.
"I think people forget he was a linebacker and a fullback coming out of high school," said South Carolina defensive line coach Brad Lawing. "When Melvin finally realized that he was a defensive lineman and bought into what we were doing, he's gotten better and better. I fully expect Melvin to have his best season this year."
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