South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson on Gamecocks’ improved depth
There’s a certain tone of pride in the voice of South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson when he talks about what he’s got.
He’s a coach who had to throw in an undersized freshman at tackle in 2016. The next year he played with basically six defensive backs all season. Last year, he watched injuries slice his defense apart.
So this year, it should leave him pleased.
“It’s a big difference between this year and last year,” Robinson said. “The depth is tremendous right now. You know we got three deep up front, we got deep at linebacker. We’re right there in the secondary. We’ve got to get a couple of guys back but you know that shouldn’t be an issue this year.”
The top group on the line is all back from last year, led by stars Javon Kinlaw and D.J. Wonnum. Aaron Sterling might lose his job to former four-star Kingsley Enagbare. The reserves include four-stars such as Rick Sandidge (a top 2018 recruit) and Brad Johnson, plus potential stud freshmen in five-star Zacch Pickens and Joseph Anderson.
At linebacker, the staff is working in everyone at multiple spots, but there are enough pieces that beyond a presumed pair of inside starters in Ernest Jones and T.J. Brunson, the team has the likes of Rosendo Louis and Derek Boykins working inside, Damani Staley, Jahmar Brown and Eldridge Thompson on the weakside, three of those players working in at the strongside and the staff trying to fit in Sherrod Greene, a starter last year who is coming off a concussion and can play all three spots.
In short, the staff has enough options Robinson could joke if a player misses practice “They’re screwed. Somebody’s gonna jump in front of them.”
A year ago, the Gamecocks had to play Brunson over 90 percent of the snaps. By season’s end, they were scrapping for bodies along the line.
The secondary remains a bit of a question, especially with some injuries. The team has five veterans who have played, plus safety Jamel Cook, who has received lukewarm reviews from coaches. Freshman Jammie Robinson seems a lock to be in the rotation or even start (he’s a top safety with veteran J.T. Ibe banged up), but the other three freshmen will determine if there’s depth back there.
Robinson was bold enough to say there are no busts in the group, and an emphasis on versatility is creating a group that will be highly flexible if nothing else.
“They’ve got to be dual players,” Robinson said. “They have to play multiple positions. And Israel (Mukuamu) is playing corner, he’s playing safety. Jaycee (Horn) is playing nickel, he’s playing corner. Jammie is playing safety, he’s playing nickel. R.J. (Roderick) is playing safety, he’s playing nickel. You know, Jam (Williams) is playing some nickel as well.”