Marcquis Roberts has faced a long, hard road since he arrived at South Carolina. He missed all of the 2011 and 2012 seasons with injuries before playing WILL linebacker last season.
Roberts played in all 13 games, starting nine. He started the first eight games of they year before giving way to freshman Skai Moore before regaining his spot in the bowl game. He ranked fifth on the team in tackles with 48, and he added 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. But this spring, Roberts will move to MIKE linebacker and take on a more vocal role for a defense that should rely heavily on the linebacker corps.
The fourth-year sophomore – he received medical redshirts in both 2011 and 2012 – has taken on the leadership role since he had been on campus as long as anyone.
“At MIKE you have to be more vocal, more of a leader,” Roberts said. “You have to tell everybody where to go and not worry about yourself. I’ve learned from Shaq (Wilson) and Reggie (Bowens) and those guys. They’ve taught me a lot. Coach (Kirk) Botkin is a great coach, and he is making sure I know what I’m doing.”
Roberts has changed positions three times since his arrival. He started out at Spur, moved to WILL and now is at MIKE after the emergence of Moore and Jonathan Walton at WILL. Roberts is listed third on the depth chart behind Kaiwan Lewis and T.J. Holloman, but he expects to get his share of reps this spring with Lewis out with an injury.
“I’m still learning, so this spring should be very valuable,” Roberts said.
Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward likes the tenacity the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder brings to the field.
“He’s very physical and likes to play at the line of scrimmage,” Ward said. “He plays the game the way a linebacker should play it.”
The position switch has been natural for Roberts.
“I’m comfortable at any of the linebacker spots,” Roberts said. “I’m more of an outgoing person and like to be loud. Playing the MIKE and making sure everyone knows where they’re supposed to be fits my personality.”
Roberts doesn’t dwell on missing the first two seasons of his college career. He missed the entire 2011 season after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum on his shoulder. He recovered and thought he had a solid chance to get on the field in 2012 when a torn ACL during spring practice forced him back on the shelf.
The setbacks have helped him grow and become a better player when he finally got a chance to be a contributor.
“All the injuries made me realize things aren’t given to you, you have to earn it,” Roberts said. “Every day I step out here on the practice field, I’m trying to prove myself.”
Botkin feels confident with Roberts on the field. He believes having the knowledge of all three positions will help.
“Even though he’s learning a new position, you can tell Marcquis is finally comfortable because he knows what he’s doing,” Botkin said. “He’s doing everything we’ve asked of him, and that’s all you can hope for.”