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August 12, 2014

English adds weight, looks to fill Clowney's shoes



It took Darius English 5,000 calories - about four big meals and two snacks - a day and plenty of weight room work to add more than 20 pounds over the offseason.

Now the redshirt sophomore defensive end has finally filled out his 6-foot-6 frame, reaching about 250 pounds. It's likely he'll need every ounce to fill the shoes of No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick Jadeveon Clowney.

Getting bigger had been one of English's directives since he enrolled at South Carolina in 2012. The Powdersville, Georgia, native was about 225 pounds last season when he appeared in all 13 games - usually as Clowney's backup.

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English impressed in spurts, notching 19 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, with a forced fumble last season. His lone start came against Kentucky, when Clowney sat out with an injury.

But to hold his own consistently against SEC left tackles as a full-time starter, the former three-star prospect needed to bulk up over the offseason - something he'd failed to do over his first two seasons with the program.

English said at South Carolina media day his struggle to add weight stemmed from immaturity. Growing up, he said, helped him learn to bite the bullet.

"I've matured now, and I understand that it's important to get this stuff done," English said.

English said his work often began at six in the morning, sometimes not finishing until 10 at night. Working closely with USC Director of Football Nutrition Joey Blake and strength and conditioning coach Joe Connolly, English gained the necessary weight, almost purely muscle, over the spring and summer.

It was a rough process, English admits.

"Some days, I didn't feel like really eating and stuff, but I had to do it," English said. "But to see the results pay off, it feels good."

USC defensive line coach Deke Adams said English entered preseason practice at about 252 pounds, and that 11 days later, he's somewhere in the 245-to-250-pound range.

"I think he'll be fine there," Adams said after practice on Monday. "He's maintained it through camp, so if he can do that, I think he'll be fine with it."

English and his coaches assert that the new weight hasn't dulled the speed that makes him a dangerous pass-rusher coming off the edge. If anything, they say, English is more explosive now than he was 25 pounds ago.

"Coach Joe Connolly, he did a great job of working with me on my speed and agility while I was putting on the weight, and the results paid off," English said. "I've gotten even faster than I was before, even with putting on the weight, so Coach Joe Connolly did a great job with that."

"I feel great - faster, bigger, everything - stronger," English added later.

English's newfound appetite also carries over to the football field. The McEachern High School product is the favorite to take over for Clowney on the right side of the defensive line, and he says he's hungry to prove himself at a position most pundits have labeled as a question mark for the Gamecocks this season.

English is nursing a nagging hamstring injury that caused him to miss Monday's practice, but he's got his eyes fixed on the Aug. 28 season opener against Texas A&M.

"I'm anxious for going in there and proving that I can be an SEC caliber defensive end, showing off what I can do," English said.

The Aggies, led by departed quarterback Johnny Manziel, were the SEC's best offense a year ago, averaging 538.4 total yards per game. English's first test is likely to come against Texas A&M left tackle Cedric Ogbuehi, a 6-foot-5, 305-pound senior who has been listed in some early mock drafts as a possible No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in 2015.

English likes his chances, noting that squaring off against 6-foot-8, 344-pound USC left tackle Corey Robinson in practice is no easy task, either.

"I feel like I'll be prepared for that," English said.



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