USC Gamecocks Football

Once a star recruit, Jamyest Williams now the ‘godfather’ of Gamecocks secondary

What Coach Muschamp said about Jamyest Williams’ role

The University of South Carolina Gamecocks face Vanderbuilt for their first road game of the 2018 season.
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The University of South Carolina Gamecocks face Vanderbuilt for their first road game of the 2018 season.

Jamyest Williams has worn a few titles in his time with Gamecock football.

He’s been the top recruit in his class. He’s been a true freshman starter who saw his share of struggles late that season. He’s been a corner and a safety. And this spring he was given a new title.

The godfather of the secondary.

He was once the new face. Now he’s the longest-tenured defensive back the team has on scholarship. It puts him in a leadership position of sorts — and potentially as a tentpole of the team’s plans at that spot.

“He’s the godfather back there,” defensive coordinator Tavaris Robinson said. “It seems like he just got here, but he’s a guy who is always in here looking at tape.”

Williams’ 2018 season ended early with a shoulder injury, one that had nagged him his first season and back to high school. He said after the spring game it was doing well, though he had to wear a yellow non-contact jersey that afternoon.

As the team’s elder statesman, he said he picked a few points of emphasis going through his second offseason.

“Just the mental part of the game and just recognizing the little things,” Williams said. “Recognizing the little things that I was messing up on this season, corrections, playing a lot faster. Just helping out my teammates more.”

Will Muschamp put a good bit on Williams when talking about him publicly a few months ago. The coach pointed out that a healthy Williams allows second-year safety R.J. Roderick to move down to nickel. That in turn allows the team to pair 6-foot-1 Jaycee Horn, who played nickel and corner last season, with 6-foot-4 Israel Mukuamu on the other side.

Moving Roderick, a stoutly built heavy hitter, to nickel is in some way the diametric opposite of an experiment that began with Williams two years ago.

In the August before Williams’ first year on campus, a spate of safety injuries forced the staff to move senior nickel/corner Chris Lammons to safety. This moved Williams, the No. 76 recruit in the country by 247Sports, to the primary nickel spot at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds.

There were some good moments, notably a highlight-reel pick against Missouri and the ability to cover a lot of ground and close out on plays. But there were also problems, getting matched with bigger receivers against Georgia and Clemson or being forced into tough spots in run support.

He hardly played against Clemson and was limited in some games down the stretch. After that year, the staff moved him to safety, where that range would prove more valuable.

But he started 2018 as a backup, and Muschamp admitted Williams wasn’t happy about it a few games in. Injuries started to mount, and Williams started playing more, with an interception against Missouri and 14 combined tackles against Texas A&M and Tennessee.

Then the shoulder gave out against Missouri. He finished the year with 32 tackles and four pass break-ups, and he could only watch his teammates finish out a 7-6 season.

He’s now in a secondary with only two other upperclassmen. Sixth-year former Rice grad transfer J.T. Ibe should start opposite him, and Southern Cal transfer Jamel Cook is still a question mark as to whether or not he can harness his considerable talent.

So Williams has a new role and a chance to fulfill his promise beyond just the godfather moniker.

“They were talking about who played the most,” Robinson said. “He said, ‘Check the XOS,’ that’s the film stuff. ‘I’ve got a lot of games on tape.’ Jam has played a lot of football for us and we’re excited about Jam.”