Coming out of spring practice, South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp was high on his second-year linebacker Ernest Jones. His staff had also just brought in a freshman who looks ready to do something in Derek Boykins.
The only hang up is both are exclusively middle linebackers, a spot currently occupied by two-year starter T.J. Brunson, the team’s returning leading tackler.
But that apparently might not be the biggest hang up.
“T.J. can play both,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “T.J. came in and played the Dime and Will for us as a freshman. T.J. understands those positions fine.”
A move from that middle spot to the weak side would not be unprecedented in the program‘s recent history.
Skai Moore had started in the middle for two years heading into his junior campaign. But the talent behind him had shown well, and he moved over, earning all-SEC honors as a senior.
That weakside spot is currently held by rising junior Sherrod Greene, who had an up-and-down first season as a starter in 2018.
There is no immediate indication of any change coming, but it is an unusual situation with a group that returns everyone but also had its share of struggles last season. The staff has never been shy about saying it will play the best players regardless of seniority, and if the situation dictates, the team has the flexibility to do some shuffling.
“Sherrod could play both,” Muschamp said. “Ernest, we’re going to keep him primarily at the Mike, but you’ve got to create depth on your team, with guys being able to cross-train and play other positions.”