When Javon Kinlaw finally signed with the South Carolina football team, those outside the program looked at his listed 340 pounds and envisioned a possible nose tackle to clog the middle and bolster an ailing run defense.
But while Kinlaw no doubt wants to help USC on the ground he sees himself as more disrupter than space-eater.
“I never saw myself as a nose tackle,” Kinlaw said. “I see myself as a 3-technique, a 3-technique that’s going to get after the quarterback.”
To that end, he’s no longer 340. As of the first week of May, his last at Jones County Junior College in Mississippi, he was down to 320, with a goal of getting to 305 or 300. The Goose Creek High School alum, who committed to Will Muschamp’s staff last year and then had to get academics in order, will arrive in Columbia a month ahead of the start of the real summer conditioning program.
He said dropping weight has never really been a challenge, and he’s been doing 2- and 3-mile runs to slim down.
“The weight just came off,” Kinlaw said.
The junior college experience gave him a taste of life far from home, but it also allowed him to hone his skills and find his place on the field. In high school, he was an extra large defensive end and tight end.
He worked with Anthony Maddox, Jones County’s defensive line coach and a former NFL player, and found it easier to work on the inside. He said he liked going against guards in tight spaces, where he could use his longer arms to create space and hold off opponents.
Kinlaw finished the season with 26 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks.
He admitted when he first went to Mississippi, he wasn’t so sure he’d make it back. The way he’s done it impressed his new head coach.
“Javon was a situation that when I first got here, the best situation for him was to go to junior college immediately,” Muschamp said on signing day. “He was able to do that. He’s done a fantastic job at junior college. He’s had above a 3.0 GPA since he’s been there, and sometimes guys mature at different ages. He’s handled his situation wonderfully. I am extremely proud.”
He’ll now approach a new situation when he gets on campus.
In addition to diving into USC classes and getting around some of his new teammates (many aren’t in town for much of May), he’ll be joining a defensive line in need of an infusion of talent. Muschamp said several times the Gamecocks defense will have to rely on some newcomers, including up front.
As a junior college player, and a highly-rated one, Kinlaw seems like a prime candidate.
He said he expects to be a starter, and the staff expects he’ll at least have a role. He’s already had a year in a competitive league post-high school, and that gives him confidence he’ll come in ahead and secure a spot with the team’s top unit.
“That’s something that I feel and see,” Kinlaw said. “I know I’m going to play, but for myself, I know I have a chance to start, I have a real good chance.”