Nobody is filling Jadeveon Clowney's shoes. It's impossible, like hoping a Honda can offer the same horsepower as a Lamborghini. His influence on the game, the way he demanded two and three blockers at once, that can't be duplicated. But his production?
Clowney had three sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss last season. Those are solid numbers, to be sure. They can also be matched, or at least close to it.
The best chance South Carolina has of avoiding a massive drop off in defensive end production can be found in Gerald Dixon. And not just because Dixon went to South Pointe High in Rock Hill, the same high school Clowney attended.
Dixon, a fourth-year sophomore, showed the potential to be South Carolina's next superior pass rusher last season. He finished with 17 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and a critical fumble recovery at Central Florida.
After years of dominance, South Carolina's defensive line needs fresh faces to step up. Dixon will get some help from fellow defensive end Darius English, whose athleticism could be special on the edge. But English is still developing. Listed at 235 pounds, he needs to add considerable weight.
Dixon already has the bulk to compete in the SEC - standing 6-foot-2 and 267 pounds - and a quick first step off the line of scrimmage. Maybe not as quick as Clowney's first step, but he doesn't need it to be. Nobody is expecting South Carolina to replace the best defensive player in program history. The key will be avoiding a massive decline.