USC Gamecocks Football

Gamecocks freshman pass rusher is ‘ripped up,’ working through learning curve

Mike Peterson explains how South Carolina’s injuries last year has helped ends’ depth

South Carolina football coach Mike Peterson discusses how injuries hurt the Gamecocks' ends and pass rushers last season but helped build depth for 2019, then updates the progress of freshman Rodricus Fitten and the best players for USC early.
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South Carolina football coach Mike Peterson discusses how injuries hurt the Gamecocks' ends and pass rushers last season but helped build depth for 2019, then updates the progress of freshman Rodricus Fitten and the best players for USC early.

It turns out, a spring semester on campus did pretty well for South Carolina freshman Rodricus Fitten.

As much in the weight room as anything.

The freshman pass rusher came to Columbia a little on the small end, 235 pounds and in the range of the team’s strongside linebacker more than a fully developed Buck defensive end. That’s a little different now.

“Hot Rod will be to 245 to 250,” outside linebacker coach Mike Peterson said. “Looking good man. He’s ripped up.”

The Atlanta, Georgia product was a top-500 recruit and picked USC from a list of offers that included Florida, North Carolina and Missouri. He put up solid stats for his high school team, rolling up 45 tackles, eight for loss and four sacks.

But he showed a little something else to Peterson.

“The thing thing I like about him is, I’ve seen it in recruiting, he plays with a lot of energy,” Peterson said. “The thing now is is trying to you know, shorten the learning curve for him and get him on our pages for the terminology and in the way we do things, but the effort is one thing that I really like about him. I loved it in recruitment and he’s showing out there now.”

That motor is something that gives a player a bedrock. If they have talent and play with motor, it’s a good spot for things to eventually come together.

But South Carolina’s Buck spot is a bear from a learning perspective. Players there have to rush the passer, move all over the formation and often have coverage responsibilities, sometimes as far out as a tight end split out in the slot.

He’s at a position where the team has a few veteran pieces. D.J. Wonnum is back off injury and an anchor of the defense, while Brad Johnson (hurt right now) has been a rotation player two years in a row. Daniel Fennell is also a versatile veteran presence in a couple different spots.

And early on, Fitten is still working through the learning side of it. One teammate compared his motor to Bryson Allen-Williams, a strongside linebacker who stepped in as a Buck last season when injuries struck.

“That’s a great one to compare it to,” Peterson said. “He’s probably running the wrong way, but right now, that’s my job. That’s why I’m here to kind of get him running in the right direction, but you know, give me a guy that plays with a motor over talented guy anyday.”

West Coast raised. Midwest educated. Southern football indoctrinated. Covers most everything Gamecocks, primarily football.
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