COLUMBIA - Before making the biggest decision of his life, Abu Lamin made sure there were no surprises.
The 310-pound defensive tackle talked to the giants of South Carolina's recent past. He met Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles. He heard what they had to say.
Their conversations reached far beyond the football field, drifting to campus life and academics. Lamin knew this decision impacted more than football. But as he talked to Clowney and Quarles, one thing was inescapable. They were heading to the NFL, leaving crater-sized voids in their wake.
The opportunity to fill their spot was too much to pass.
"This is almost like a big dream being able to come in to a place that just lost two great linemen," Lamin said. "They're definitely rebuilding up front, so this is a great time to come in and put an imprint on South Carolina's D line."
South Carolina hopes it took a massive step toward reloading a defensive line that has plowed the road toward its recent success. The Gamecocks' defensive front has been mostly dominant, producing three All-Americans and leading the SEC in sacks two of the past four seasons.
Now, the All-Americans are gone. Behind senior J.T. Surratt, there are fresh faces and inexperienced veterans. The void Clowney, Quarles and defensive end Chaz Sutton left was expected, and the Gamecocks purposely went about filling it.
"Obviously, as we went through the year, we knew we'd lose Clowney," recruiting coordinator Steve Spurrier Jr. said last week. "Kelcy Quarles might or might not go, but if he does go that's a place where obviously we've got to recruit. . The defensive line is always a need. You always want to recruit. If you can sign a good defensive lineman, you need to constantly recruit those guys."
The Head Ball coach stopped short of guaranteeing incoming freshmen playing time last week, but Steve Spurrier will know where they are on the practice field. They'll get a chance.
Lamin, who will have three years to play three at South Carolina, will be among those getting a look. He spent last season at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College, recording 34 tackles along with 7.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Before junior college, Lamin had opportunities to go elsewhere. A native of Fayetteville, N.C., he was recruited by Clemson, Miami, N.C. State and Wake Forest among other schools before his path was rerouted.
Lamin considers the year he spent in junior college a blessing in disguise.
"Juco really showed me a lot," Lamin said. "I didn't know too much about the football ways and everything before I went to Juco. Coming in and doing the 5 a.m. workouts really helped me out. It helped me develop my physicality, my maturity, just my mind development. It showed me so much."
Lamin hasn't just spoken with Gamecocks from the past. He's still getting to know fellow members of his signing class, but he said he's already talked with four-star defensive end Dante Sawyer and junior college end Jhaustin Thomas about the opportunity they have to form another great defensive line at South Carolina.
Who knows what the future will bring. Whatever happens, Lamin will be ready.
"It's just about being able to come in and have a great opportunity to build something special," Lamin said.
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