South Carolina finished sixth in the SEC last year in rushing defense, giving up 136 yards per game.
First-year linebackers coach Kirk Botkin wants to be better this season. Part of that is preaching to his linebackers that their first responsibility is to stop the run.
“The biggest thing, if they are in doubt if it’s run-pass, we are going to err on stopping the run first,” Botkin said. “I tell them if they don’t know where to go, don’t go anywhere. Dang sure, don’t back up.
“You stop the run, you have a chance to win.”
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Botkin replaced Ellis Johnson in the linebackers role. Johnson also coordinated the Gamecock defense.
“They both preach that, but Coach Botkin probably harps on it more,” senior linebacker Shaq Wilson said. “That’s what you are there for, to stop the run. Mostly we are there to stop the run, knock guys back.”
Brandon Shell’s fall has gone very quietly, which is a good thing for South Carolina.
The redshirt freshman who will start at left tackle when the Gamecocks open against Vanderbilt on Aug. 30 has made incremental improvements since spring practice, offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said.
“He’s a guy who can be as good as he wants to be,” Elliott said. “As long as he is focused, he’s going to be hard to beat. His mental capacity slips a little bit sometimes, and he doesn’t get focused like I would like him to, but as long as he’s ready to go, he’s pretty good.”
Almost a year later, Brison Williams finally is ready to sieze his starting role.
In the 2011 preseason, Williams was one of the most talked-about Gamecocks and expected to be a starter in his true freshman season. However, a broken arm kept him out the first four weeks of the season. When he returned to the lineup, he said, he wasn’t the same player.
“Last year I was kind of scared to play (because of the arm injury), but this year I am 100 percent ready,” the 5-foot-11, 205-pounder said.
Williams, who started one game last year in place of an injured DeVonte Holloman, again is expected to start at strong safety.
“I think Brison has done a good job,” secondary coach Grady Brown said. “He is a big guy. He has to play to his size. He’s done a good job. I am excited to watch Brison play this year.”
Although only a sophomore, Williams considers himself a veteran, he said.
“I don’t consider myself the new guy. I know what to do out there,” he said. “I think I am ready for the starting job this year. I feel like I’m in shape and I can do a lot more than I did last year.”
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