In terms of playing a role, Jamyest Williams has given South Carolina football a good number of snaps in his first season and a half on campus.
The 5-foot-9 defensive back was the team’s starting nickel most of the 2017 season. This fall, the Grayson High School product has been at safety, helping hold up a struggling position and occasionally dropping down to nickel when things get shuffled.
He came in as a four-star prospect, and his career has been fraught with highs and lows through 17 games. USC coach Will Muschamp was asked recently on his weekly call-in show if Williams could ever find himself playing a pure cornerback role.
“We really like Jam as far as a slot cover guy to match upon some of the slot receivers,” Muschamp said. “Which aren’t some of the bigger receivers in those situations as far as matchups are concerned. You look at last week, when we played Texas A&M, they had a longer tight end. He had one snap in the entire game where he was matched up on (Jace) Sternberger.”
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The former Kansas player and junior college product gave South Carolina fits, posting 145 yards on seven catches. Much of that came in complementing the run game and being able to outmuscle South Carolina’s smaller safeties.
Williams has shown the ability to stick with smaller receivers, cover ground quickly to close down plays and occasionally do some ball hawking. For the season, he’s got 21 tackles, one for loss, one interception and one pass break-up.
His season as a new position featured some ups and downs.Will Muschamp said Williams was upset when he wasn’t getting much work, as J.T. Ibe and Steven Montac were the top unit. But he’s seen more work since Ibe hurt his knee (he’s expected to miss at least the Tennessee game), and has usually been competent.
But another move to the outside for the No. 76 player in the 2016 recruiting class, that’s not likely.
“Those are some matchup issues you deal with, as far as when you get on the outside, you’re playing against bigger receivers, which are harder to matchup on,” Muschamp said. “And I thought for the most part in our last ballgame, our guys did a nice job of finding the right matchups and things we kind of planned for going into the game.”
South Carolina will have a rebuild in its secondary next season, as four opening-day starters and five contributors will graduate. That will leave Williams, star freshman Jaycee Horn, freshmen Israel Mukuamu and R.J. Roderick, both on the edge of the rotation, and transfer Jamel Cook as options going forward.
Muschamp contrasted the more narrow role Williams has had in Columbia with the more expansive one he had in high school. Coming out, there were some rumblings he could help on special teams or offense, and his high school coach Jeff Herron has said he imagines Williams could contribute with the ball in his hands.
“Jam was a guy that was actually a two-way player at Grayson High School,” Muschamp said. “A really good ball-carrier as far as a running back is concerned. Played corner, punt returner, did a lot of really good things for that football team, and they won a state championship his senior year.”