Wideman provides flexibility along USC defensive line

Photo provided South Carolina defensive lineman Dexter Wideman

COLUMBIA — South Carolina is hoping that football is less of an adjustment for Dexter Wideman than managing the schedule that goes along with college life.

The Gamecocks’ freshman defensive end certainly got off on the wrong foot in spring practice when he was suspended from three early sessions because he had missed class. It got to the point where head coach Steve Spurrier threw down an ultimatum through the media: “He misses another one,” the Head Ball Coach warned, “he’s not going to suit up for the first game.”

Thankfully for Wideman and the Gamecocks, the Saluda native remained in good standing for the rest of the spring. Because this fall, South Carolina may need all the punch that a 6-4, 302-pound former Shrine Bowl player may be capable of providing along its reconstructed defensive line.

Although junior college sack master Marquavius Lewis was the crown jewel of USC’s recruiting class, the Greenwood native won’t revitalize South Carolina’s defensive line by himself. That will take improved play from returnees and immediate impact made by newcomers, of which Lewis and Wideman are just two. Other highly recruited defensive linemen like Quandeski Whitlow, Shameik Blackshear and Dante Sawyer are on the way and will vie for spots in preseason camp.

Much like USC’s offensive line, there are a lot of pieces here that coaches can use to mix and match. But Wideman, a four-star recruit who originally committed to Florida State and spent last season at Camden Military Academy, surely benefitted from being on campus for spring practice, during which new defensive co-coordinator Jon Hoke implemented his new 4-3 scheme.

That should give him an advantage over others who won’t begin practicing in their new environment until August. Wideman also brings some flexibility, given that he worked in the spring at both defensive end and defensive tackle. He could join Lewis in helping USC to mount more of a pass rush, or play a role in replacing graduated tackle J.T. Surratt at the center of South Carolina’s defensive line.

No, he likely won’t provide the impact of Lewis, who’s already talking about double-digit sacks. But given that he took part in spring practice, Wideman is certainly poised to play a role — assuming he has class scheduling already figured out.

Friday: No. 10 WR Deebo Samuel

Saturday: No. 9 LB Jordan Diggs

Sunday: No. 8 DB Rico McWilliams

Monday: No. 7 OT Mason Zandi

Tuesday: No. 6 DE Dexter Wideman

Wednesday: No. 5