In 2016, Jamyest Williams’ decision to commit to South Carolina football was a triumph for coach Will Muschamp.
Three years later, Williams has the most experience in a South Carolina uniform of all the team’s defensive backs, earning him the title “godfather of the secondary.” But when the first depth chart for 2019 came out, he wasn’t in the starting lineup.
Shoulder injuries have plagued Williams for two years now, and he has yet to develop into quite the star observers expected when he was a recruit. But heading into this season, he’s not worried about outside expectations that he reassert himself.
“No, not really, no pressure. I don’t want to think of it as no pressure like that. I just want to think of it, you know, like I got hurt. I got hurt,” Williams said. “I dealt with some injuries, I just gotta come back stronger than I did. This is my junior year, this is what they expect me to do.”
As the only upperclassman defensive back who has played more than four games for the Gamecocks, Williams has taken on a leadership role, almost by default.
“I have to, I’m like the oldest one that’s played here … There’s only so much the coaches can tell them,” Williams said. “So you know, I gotta take on that role and just let them know what’s going on, just meet extra, like in our alone time, just sit down and talk to them about what’s going on.”
So far in training camp, Williams has taken freshman safety/nickelback Jammie Robinson under his wing, calling him his “little bro” and noting his progress while pointing out that Robinson still has areas to improve upon.
Evolving into a well-rounded player takes time, Williams knows. He had the advantage of playing early in a thin USC defensive backfield, and that experience proved especially important when injuries wound up sidelining him late in seasons.
“When I was going through my injury phase, I was able to get a chance to just sit down and develop more knowledge of the defense we have,” Williams said.
“It’s not really (too bad), because talking to my dad, my dad kinda always keeps me motivated, and just help me keep going. I found other ways to help myself be productive while going through those injuries.”
And those injury troubles feel behind him at this point, he said. While senior safety J.T. Ibe has missed several practices with injury during camp, Williams has been full-go.
“I feel great. Because the training regimen they have us on, the way I’ve been working my body, I just feel great, I feel like I’m in tip-top shape and I feel as healthy as ever,” Williams said at the beginning of camp.
Williams has three career interceptions to his credit, more than any other current Gamecock, and that stat could be crucial, given how much Muschamp has emphasized the need for South Carolina to come up with more takeaways — after cornerback Jaycee Horn posted an SEC All-Freshman season in 2018, defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson noted his lack of picks as an area that needed improvement.
Another area where Williams’ skillset seems in line with Muschamp’s priority is the importance of talking in the secondary, keeping everyone coordinated and informed.
“Just communicate, let them know what’s going on so we’re all on the same page,” Williams said of his job in the defensive backfield. “It’s not about me just being a leader — it’s about me just helping them out.”