It seemed in some ways Will Muschamp’s arrival solved something for Bryson Allen-Williams.
He spent his first two seasons bouncing between linebacker and defensive end, not finding a role, not finding a place. Muschamp’s defense featured a Buck end position and a corresponding strongside linebacker spot, which bridged the gap between linebacker and pass rusher.
And after a season filling in at inside linebacker because of Skai Moore’s injury, Allen-Williams settled in and handled both edge spots when healthy. He credited Muschamp with seeing him as a Buck, but in truth, he doesn’t see himself like that going forward.
“I know I’m an inside linebacker,” Allen-Williams said. “I know I want to play inside linebacker on the next level. But here at South Carolina, Buck was my position. Buck was the position I could help the team at.”
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He said he came to campus promising to be an unselfish player, and at least at this front, he seems to have lived that.
“Bryson has done a fantastic job of the things that we’ve asked him to do,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “Bryson’s biggest talent, and it is a talent, is effort. He plays extremely hard when he’s on the field. And he’s a guy that goes after it, and he’s been a great ambassador of our program.”
Last season, Allen-Williams had 41 tackles, 10 for loss, a pair of sacks and five hurries in nine games. He had to fill in as the primary Buck when D.J. Wonnum got hurt.
The year before, he played in less than three full games, but had two sacks, a pass break up and an interception before a shoulder injury ended his season. That was likely when he was at his most versatile, playing strongside linebacker against bigger packages and defensive end against passing looks in Muschamp’s defense.
“He saw who I was as a player,” Allen-Williams said. “Saw my potential there, my diversity as a player. He kind of saw me as a Buck, being able to rush off the edge, being able to drop in coverage, being able to disguise a lot.”
The edge role he ended up holding wasn’t really an option his junior year. A neck injury sidelined Moore, and Larenz Bryant also missed most of the year.
So Allen-Williams played the team’s weakside spot, an inside-the-box position that had him working in a lot of pass coverage. He ended up second on the team with 80 tackles, two sacks and a pair of interceptions.
It’s filling that role that he hopes will make him money on the next level. At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, he’s probably not the defensive end he was forced to be this season. But his coach wouldn’t rule out some work on the outside.
“I think he’s got some position multiplicity,” Muschamp said. “I think he can be an edge guy and I think he can be an inside backer and I think he’ll be a guy that can play special teams for a long time.”
Allen-Williams has been through some things in Columbia. After not having a position his first two years and taking some time to come into his own as a former four-star player, he had to deal with injuries, one that forced a medical redshirt and another that cost him the final month of his senior regular season.
And he’s said he’s seen things change with the program across five seasons.
“When coach Muschamp came, I could just see the culture change and go toward a program that I wanted to be a part of when I signed in high school,” Allen-Williams said. “Just having him here and having the coaches and the support staff that they’ve brought since I’ve been here, it just makes being here, being a Gamecock all worthwhile.”
Allen-Williams admitted from time to time, he’s thought about what comes next, the draft, maybe finding a spot in the pros. He hopes the way he works and learns helps him reach that level, and he knows where he expects to play when he arrives.
“I know my two best years as a Gamecock, as far as numbers, as far as plays I made was my junior year because I played strictly inside linebacker,” Allen-Williams said. “And then last year, just being able to move as a Sam, move as a buck and play a little inside, it’s just something I feel like I can do.”