J.T. Surrat pressures Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. (Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports)
By Ron Aiken, GamecockCentral.com
Celebrating 15 years of GamecockCentral.com
You probably haven't heard much about J.T. Surratt, and how could you have?
Did you know he averaged almost a double-double as an All-State high school basketball player (9 points, 12 rebounds and 6 blocks his junior year) at Parkland High School in Winston-Salem in addition to making All-State in football?
Did you know at 6-foot-2, 307 pounds, he can dunk a basketball standing still? Or do a 360-degree slam?
Did you know he has run a 4.7 40-yard dash and bench press 430-plus pounds?
Did you know he and fellow 2010 recruit Kelcy Quarles call themselves "The Bash Brothers"?
Did you know much of anything at all about Surratt before this year, really?
When you're playing on the same line with a Heisman Trophy candidate who is literally world famous, the spotlight has little time for you.
That's just fine with Surrattt, the newly minted starter at defensive tackle alongside Quarles.
"I am unknown," said Surratt, who made just one start in 2012. "(Other teams) don't know what I'm going to bring. But I'm going to bring my all on every down. I'm going to give my all every play. I'm out here to get better like everybody else. I'm gong to come prepared."
Surratt has faced long odds before. Making the switch to football from his first love, basketball, was one. Being pegged only a two-star recruit was another. Suffering a shoulder injury in fall camp that caused him to miss all of 2010 season was yet another. Watching both his recruiter (Jay Graham) and position coach (Brad Lawing) leave the program was one more.
But in each case, Surratt has made the most of his situation, remained humble and hard working and has now positioned himself to have the kind of breakout season he's been patiently waiting for since he first committed to USC. Now in his fourth camp, Surratt is ready to prove he belongs on the team's highest-ranked unit.
"This camp has gone great," Surratt said. "I got better in a lot of areas from last year. I see myself doing a lot of big things this year. I want to be better, and I'm going to be better. I want to do my talking on the field and make the plays when they present themselves."
Surratt said his basketball skills remain a huge asset in his repotoire and give him a leg up, sometimes literally, over offensive lineman.
"Basketball helps a lot with my feet," Surratt said. "Coming out here and not playing football long, when I transitioned into football, having good feet helped me a lot being able to move and use my feet and quickness to beat offensive linemen.
"I take pride in my explosiveness off the ball. Coming off the ball is one of the main goals of our defensive line. We want to be able to beat the offensive lineman off the ball every play. No offensive lineman should be able to stop us because we're stronger and faster, so we feel as if coming off the ball (quickly) is one of our strengths when we're out there playing. That initial shock is big."
Another initial shock for other teams is Clowney, a spotlight-stealing phenom who is the focus of attention for offensive coordinators and the stuff of nightmares for their quarterbacks and lineman.
Again, that's just fine with Surratt.
"Whenever you have one of the best players in the nation playing beside you, there's always going to be opportunities for plays to present themselves (to you), and you have to take advantage," Surratt said. "With him playing on the other side, it's going to create attention toward him and free me up. So when that happens, I'm ready to make plays."
Surratt said he's benefited from the depth on the line and from Quarles' experience.
"Everybody on our D-line pushes me to be on my A-game every day," Surratt said. "Everybody on the D-line are great guys and they push me to want to be great, to be better. I want to push them and they want to push me so we get better as a team.
"Kelcy's a great guy and he's taught me a lot. We call ourselves 'The Bash Brothers.' We're going to go out there and do a lot of good things this year. I'm excited, man. I'm ready."
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