SPARTANBURG, SC -- The annual Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas will kick off on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 1 p.m. ET at Gibbs Stadium in Spartanburg, S.C., but preparations have already begun. This year's game boasts many stars on both the North Carolina and South Carolina teams. The biggest name on either side is five-star defensive end Jonathan Bullard from Shelby (N.C.) Crest, who will be a very tough assignment for a South Carolina offensive line that will need to play physical. Here's our breakdown:
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North Carolina defensive line: Jonathan Bullard (Crest), Carlos Watkins (Chase), Romeo Okwara (Ardrey Kell), K'Hadree Hooker (South Lenoir)
South Carolina offensive line: Patrick Destefano (Dorman), Oliver Jones (Ninety Six), Javarius Leamon (Woodruff), Jonathan McLaughlin (Mauldin), Ryan Raley (Fairfield Central),
The North Carolina defensive line is loaded with talent as well as versatility. While Romeo Okwara is purely an edge rusher and a bit of a 'tweener at 6 feet 4 and 235 pounds and K'Hadree Hooker is clearly an inside player, Jonathan Bullard and Carlos Watkins are the wildcards. Bullard can play off the edge or he could be moved inside and the same holds true for Watkins, who is more effective inside but has a nasty bull-rush that would give the South Carolina tackles fits from the outside.
The challenge for the South Carolina offensive line will be to handle the sheer power of players like Hooker, Bullard and Watkins. Playing a 5-technique, Okwara might struggle a bit because of size but the others are so powerful and strong that it will take a physical effort from the SC linemen to keep the pocket from collapsing. And this particular group of offensive linemen isn't the most physical bunch out there.
While players like Patrick Destefano, Oliver Jones, Javarius Leamon and Jonathan McLaughlin all have good size, none of them will be confused with nasty, physical linemen - at least not at this stage of their careers. That could be problematic in this matchup as it is clear, at least on paper, that the North Carolina defensive line has the talent and athletic edge and appears to be stronger as well.
Last year it was Jadeveon Clowney who dominated the game from his defensive line position, could it be Bullard or Watkins this year?