Damario Jeffery feels comfortable in his new role as a weakside linebacker, but he has no idea if he’ll be starting at the position on Sept. 3, he said.
“I don’t really know the rotation. Every four plays, new backers rotate in. Nobody knows the starting lineup but the coaches,” Jeffery said.
Jeffery, 6-4, 235, played the spur position his first two years in Columbia but was moved to linebacker before spring practice. He is listed as a backup to Rodney Paulk on the weakside, but assistant coach for defense Ellis Johnson said Paulk may end up playing mostly middle linebacker this season.
“I feel like I have a chance to get” the starting job, Jeffery said. “If I don’t, I’ll play a lot.”
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The hardest part of the position switch for Jeffery has been playing with the proper positioning, he said.
“I tend to play high. I’m not used to standing in the box,” he said. “I’m used to playing smaller wide receivers where I can easily overpower them and throw them out of the way.”
When Jeffery plays too high at linebacker, offensive linemen can get their hands on his pads “and I can’t get them off me,” he said.
The Gamecocks worked on defense-friendly situation drills during a two-hour night practice, and the defense took advantage, head coach Steve Spurrier said.
“It was tough for the quarterbacks tonight, real tough,” Spurrier said. “We couldn’t touch (Jadeveon) Clowney a couple times, or Melvin (Ingram) or Devin (Taylor). The best pass of the night was Bruce Ellington. He got one out, threw a jump ball that Alshon (Jeffery) caught in the end zone. That was the best play of the night.”
After the workout, freshman Kelcy Quarles said he is now rotating between defensive end and defensive tackle.
Converted safety DeVonte Holloman has all the natural abilities need to play the Gamecocks’ spur position, his position coach said. Holloman, who will miss the first game of the season following an arrest on a DUI charge, is backing up Antonio Allen.
“He has all the characteristics that we look for at that position,” spurs coach John Butler said. “I think it’s a position he can naturally play without a lot of coaching. I think he’s going to be a guy who will be on the field for us in a lot of different situations this year.”
Spurrier has been named Playboy’s 2011 preseason coach of the year. The magazine also picked the Gamecocks to finish eighth in the country this year and put Jeffery and cornerback Stephon Gilmore on first-team All-America list.
Damario Jeffery, Melvin Ingram
Brad Lawing, Byron Jerideau