USC Gamecocks Football

He’s not the biggest guy on the field, but new Gamecock defender has ‘tackled them all’

There’s a notable contrast when it comes to South Carolina freshman linebacker Jahmar Brown.

His position coach, Coleman Hutzler, told a tale of his confidence — a linebacker getting bored of covering running backs at a camp and asking to cover some wide receivers. One might imagine a player such as that would expect to have a quick impact when he joined the Gamecocks.

But Brown doesn’t talk like a man who thinks he’ll just step in from Day 1.

“I don’t really expect everything to take off immediately,” Brown said. “I’m prepared to have it take some time, to learn everything and get accustomed to everything that’s going on, get a little bit stronger, get a little bit faster. Because it’s a big transition coming from high school to the best conference in college football. But I think I can handle the transition.”

He doesn’t know what to expect and is ready to be patient. The reason for that is the high school he played at.

St. Thomas Aquinas is one of the national powerhouses of the sport. Its roster is regularly stocked to the gills with top players. They’ve averaged 13 wins a season across the past 11 years and won seven state titles and a pair of national titles since 2007.

At that kind of program, even future SEC stars don’t just step onto the field and go.

“You can see some kids who, like it’s hard to even explain,” Brown said. “They’re going to be five-stars anywhere else as freshmen. But because they’re at St. Thomas, you have other five-stars in front of them. They just have to wait it out.

“It forces them to learn what they’re doing. It forces them to learn the playbook. It forces them to get better.”

Brown didn’t play for the Raiders early in his career, transferring after his sophomore season. He made a name for himself in 2017 with 30 tackles and a pair of sacks as a junior.

A one-time four-star recruit, he committed to USC in May of his junior season. He then made 39 tackles, five for loss as a senior, as part of a defense that allowed 9.2 points per game.

One factor that came up often was his size and weight, as Brown lacks the beef of a traditional linebacker.

He was listed at 6-foot, 195 pounds out of high school. He described himself as a “newer age linebacker,” still physical, but not a pure thumper.

Instead, his forte is playing in space, covering backs, tight ends and even receivers as Hutzler saw. But might he have some issues against bigger backs?

“I’ve played against them all,” Brown said, noting he’s gone against runners from 180 to 220 pounds. “I’ve tackled them all. I’ve covered them all.”

Photos have surfaced on social media of Brown after a few months in the strength program, certainly looking solid.

During the spring semester, he said he worked back from a hamstring injury, training near-daily, mostly working on his legs and running (he lifted weights along the guidelines the team provides).

Although the question of size comes up from time to time, he never felt any pressure that came with it. He felt comfortable at his size and didn’t want to get bigger just for the sake of doing so to impress USC coaches.

“They’re not telling me to put on any unnecessary weight,” Brown said. “They can do that themselves. I started learning the playbook a little bit, piece by piece.”

He was in town for the spring game and paid attention to the linebackers. He said he mostly watched Ernest Jones and Derek Boykins in the middle, although his fate is almost assuredly at the more coverage-heavy weakside spot. He said he’d be open to playing defensive back if asked and had played there in 7-on-7 competition.

When Hutzler was asked about the size factor, he pointed to another Gamecocks commit who came in on the more slender side: Skai Moore.

Coming from the same part of Florida, Moore was 6-foot-2, 205 pounds. He never got much past 220 in college, but broke into the lineup early and led the team in tackles four times, leaving with the program interception record.

Although there are parallels, the staff hasn’t put any pressure on Brown with comparisons to the former All-SEC player.

“They said that when the first started recruiting me,” Brown said. “Over time, we just stopped talking about that.

“Skai Moore is Skai Moore and Jahmar Brown is Jahmar Brown.”