South Carolina outside linebackers coach Mike Peterson wanted to pump the breaks a little.
His newest pupil at the Buck position, freshman Brad Johnson, has had some moments in camp, shown enough that Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp said he will play in 2017. But Peterson isn’t going to let the hype train get going too quickly.
“You’re not going to crown him yet and start printing the T-shirts yet,” Peterson said. “It’s still a long ways to go. I’m just saying I’m excited about what I see in camp right now and the way he’s working in camp.”
Still, the former Jacksonville Jaguar All-Pro said it was safe to say Johnson was in some ways following the path of fellow Buck D.J. Wonnum. Seen in the right light, that’s pretty notable.
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Wonnum earned mention from Muschamp in the first week of camp last season, a quick comment about him impressing. Wonnum ended up the team’s No. 2 Buck, jumping a slightly more veteran player and working behind Darius English, one of the more productive pass rushers in the SEC.
But Peterson said he didn’t like to tell his players they fit the mold of other guys he’d coached.
Johnson was a higher-rated prospect than Wonnum (four stars instead of three), and the pieces around him aren’t all that much different. English is gone, Wonnum is the heir apparent. Bryson Allen-Williams will kick in there, but it remains to be seen how much he’ll have to help at linebacker.
That leaves Johnson probably battling Daniel Fennell for snaps.
At 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, Johnson needs to add weight, but he was productive with 43 tackles and 13 sacks defensively as a high school senior at Pendleton, while splitting time and playing offense.
“He has all the intangibles,” Peterson said. “Size, he can run, he can hit. He’s very coachable, great kid to coach. Right now my job is to shorten that learning curve, get him up to speed with some of the guys who’ve been here last year.”