The Spur is dead. Long live the Buck.
The Spur is the linebacker/defensive back hybrid position that had been a regular part of South Carolina’s defense since Ellis Johnson became the Gamecocks defensive coordinator in 2008. There still will be a hybrid defender at USC, but under first-year coach Will Muschamp, it will be a cross between a defensive end and outside linebacker called the Buck.
“It’s been great,” said sophomore Boosie Whitlow, one of two players who have been moved to the Buck position. “They put me in position to make a lot of plays. I have a lot of freedom. I love it.”
Senior Darius English also has been moved to the position. Like Whitlow, English was an undersized defensive end a year ago and struggled to make plays because of a size disadvantage. English, 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, and Whitlow, 6-3, 238 pounds, should feel much more comfortable in the Buck spot, where they will line up standing up more often than in a three-point stance like a traditional defensive end.
“There is no comparison (between the two positions) to be honest with you,” Whitlow said. “I feel better at that position. I’m ready to make plays.”
Whitlow already has consulted Auburn defensive back Stephen Roberts about what to expect from his new position. Roberts, who graduated from Opelika (Ala.) High along with Whitlow, played for Muschamp last year.
“He told me pretty much about it,” Whitlow said. “I saw how (Auburn) used the Buck position, and I really liked that.”
English, who was listed as the starting Buck heading into spring practice, wasn’t available for comment following Tuesday’s opening practice. Senior Marquavius Lewis, the starting defensive end opposite the Buck position, called his responsibilities “pretty much the same” as last season.
Muschamp will run a base 4-3 defense with the Buck considered a down lineman, but he would like to be able to turn that into a 3-4 look at times.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to try and identify what our players do best,” he said. “As we start spring, we are going to start in four down and migrate from there into some 3-4 things that we’d like to be able to do, but it all goes back to what can your players do and what things can they handle.”
The Gamecocks were 11th in the SEC in sacks a year ago.
“We’d like to have a little more juice on the edge,” Muschamp said.
He’s hoping the Buck position will help with that, and Whitlow is confident it will.
“We are disciplined,” he said, “and we are going to be a better team this year no doubt.”