Jaylin Dickerson had an uncommon opportunity on his hands.
Then his shoulder betrayed him.
At moments last summer, it appeared as if the North Carolina product might just start at safety in his first season with South Carolina’s football team or at worst be part of the rotation. Coach Will Muschamp said good things about him often, the team found itself thin at the position heading toward the opener.
Then Muschamp came out and announced a nerve issue in Dickerson’s shoulder meant he was done for the season. Dickerson admitted this week he was frustrated, but he bore an outlook that would make most coaches proud.
“You can only control what you can control,” Dickerson said. “I couldn’t do anything about it, but just learn the plays and do what I could do, focus on school.”
This August, he’s trying to make good on his second chance.
Muschamp said repeatedly he only has one safety on the roster he knows he can trust (Steven Montac). The team added a grad transfer to the group is J.T. Ibe, moved a pair of corners in Jamyest Williams and Tavyn Jackson, yet there’s still an opportunity for someone to firmly take the reins at that spot.
There’s the aim for Dickerson.
“Feeling great,” Dickerson said. “Just working on getting back in football shape and not worrying too much about my arm and just playing football at a high speed.”
He didn’t start lifting with the shoulder until December, and was mostly away from playing, outside a little 7-on-7 work, through spring.
He said it was a little weird getting back into the flow of things, making his first hit. He’s had to get used to running to the ball every play, something this staff tries to make a habit for everyone.
Defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson didn’t go above and beyond praising the second-year player, but says he does bring one big thing to the defense.
“Jaylin’s a guy that’s very athletic,” Robinson said. “We had high hopes and aspirations for him when he came in early as a mid-year guy.
“He’s doing well. He’s got a lot of competition in front of him.”
Dickerson described his game as being physical. USC already has a big hitter in Montac, but Dickerson brings a different dimension as he’s one of the taller options at 6-foot-1. The group is younger than last season, with a slew of first- and second-year players.
Although he said the year on the bench was frustrating, he tried to focus on the small things, learning plays or just watching and taking it in.
Now he’s back, and he said the year gave him a little something.
“It makes you hungrier,” Dickerson said. “It makes you want it more.”