So for South Carolina football, how do Will Muschamp and his staff plan to approach that delicate balance with a player like Jaycee Horn, who was named to the SEC All-Freshman team after starting 11 games, recording 45 tackles and defending eight passes in 2018?
The Gamecocks face similar situations with many young players who played crucial roles last year, including offensive lineman Dylan Wonnum, also an SEC All-Freshman honoree.
“I think as much as anything, you try to show them film of the different things they need to improve on. And every player has huge room for improvement,” Muschamp said of his approach. “Speaking of (Horn and Wonnum), those are two of the most coachable guys we have, as far as recognizing the things they need to work on to improve, to be the best player they can be.”
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For Horn, there’s an obvious area that the talented defensive back can improve on from his freshman year, one that dovetails nicely with Muschamp’s focus on improving the team’s turnover margin.
“I don’t think Jaycee got an interception (last year), if I’m not mistaken,” defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said. “So that’s not good. We need to get the ball off some people.”
Pointing out flaws doesn’t mean lowering expectations, though. Robinson made that clear when he said he has no intention of lowering goals or reducing responsibilities for Horn just so he’ll be sure to meet them.
“I’m going to put as much on him as he can handle. Jaycee’s a really good player, he comes from a really good family background of football, and Jaycee will be fine. I expect the world out of Jaycee,” Robinson said. “I think he’s a really good football player and got a chance to be a dominant football player in our conference. And that’s his expectations and definitely our expectations of him. He’s a good player and we’re excited about him and looking for him to do some big things.”
Robinson’s expectations have nothing to do with the fact that Horn is the son of NFL great Joe Horn. While South Carolina now has a couple of football legends among the program’s parents, with Horn and Deion Sanders, Robinson said he remains committed to treating and evaluating Jaycee on his own merits, which he believes are considerable.
“I’m never going to use their parents’ success and try to motivate them that way. I don’t do that, and that’s one of the things I will not do,” Robinson said.
Instead, Robinson and Muschamp are counting on a much simpler motivational tactic, one that should hit home with Horn after what he did last year — seniority doesn’t guarantee playing time. If a freshman out-plays Horn, he’ll be on the bench, just like he did to someone else last year.
“If you’re the best player, you’ll start. If you’re good enough, you’ll play, and if you’re not, you won’t,” Robinson said.