USC Gamecocks Football

The thing Will Muschamp needs to field his best secondary lineup

Will Muschamp updates Gamecocks’ progress, talks QBs

South Carolina Gamecocks football coach Will Muschamp talks the backups quarterback competition, scrimmages and spring practice progress.
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South Carolina Gamecocks football coach Will Muschamp talks the backups quarterback competition, scrimmages and spring practice progress.

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp has long said this: he’ll play the best five defensive backs he has and most likely move them to different spots to get them out there.

That said, as he looks forward to the 2019 football season, he has a preference for where a couple players will land and a requirement for how it will happen.

“Part of (playing) our best 11, is having Jaycee (Horn) and Israel (Mukuamu) outside,” Muschamp said on his call-in show. “They’re long, they’re competitive. They have good top-end speed. They can finish down the field.

“Those guys are hard to throw against.”

To do that, they’ll need R.J. Roderick, a high school quarterback and safety last season, to become locked in at the nickel spot. When healthy, Horn held that position last season as a true freshman.

But to make it happen, he needs something to line up.

“We need Jam(yest Williams) to say healthy because that allows us to do that,” Muschamp said.

The junior has seen the past two seasons end early because of shoulder injuries. He’s not the biggest player at 5-foot-8, 176 pounds, but he’s rangy and was a top-100 prospect out of high school.

Williams moved from nickel, where he started as a true freshman, to safety last season. He had some trouble getting on the field early but saw his workload tick up through the year before the injury.

If he’s healthy, it gives the Gamecocks a reliable body at alongside J.T. Ibe. Muschamp praised the former grad transfer’s progress in coverage this spring (Ibe’s season also ended early with an injury).

If Williams, Ibe and even redshirt sophomore Jaylin Dickerson can provide a consistent presence at safety, Roderick can stay at nickel full-time, keeping Horn where the staff wants him.

The four freshman defensive backs, none of whom have yet arrived on campus, could also factor in, notably either Jammie Robinson at nickel/safety or Cam Smith or John Dixon at corner.

Should everything work out, Roderick adds a little different dimension in the slot. The Gamecocks early in Muschamp’s tenure relied on coverage players there before going a little bigger with Horn. But the 6-foot, 200-pound, hard hitting Roderick is a different beast.

“R.J. inside, a little more physical in the slot,” Muschamp said. “We lack some physicality from that position. A good blitzer, he’s a good run-pass reader.”

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