On Monday, Will Muschamp said his biggest concern on South Carolina’s defense is the safety position.
On Tuesday, the opening day of the Gamecocks first spring practice with Muschamp as the head coach, he said he’s not terribly worried if that hurts the safeties’ feelings or not.
“I don’t really care what they think,” Muschamp said. “The bottom line is they need to respond.”
That’s the kind of tough love the safeties already have come to expect from Muschamp, who along with being South Carolina’s head coach will coach the safeties during practices, said junior defensive back Chris Lammons.
“It makes it a little easier,” Lammons said. “People think it would be harder because the head coach is on you, but he’s actually like a father figure to you, too.”
Lammons has been moved from cornerback to safety this spring to help ease some of Muschamp’s concerns about the position. Lammons entered spring practice listed as a second-team safety behind juniors Jasper Sasser and Toure Boyd.
Sasser and Boyd are two of the most inexperienced defensive backs on the team. Sassser played in two games last year, while Boyd played in one, but that inexperience may have worked in their favor considering how little Muschamp liked from what he saw of the Gamecocks’ safety play last year.
“We need to find answers in the secondary,” Muschamp said. “I’m not real confident in the safety position based on what we saw a year ago.”
Jordan Diggs, who started 10 games at safety and was South Carolina’s fifth-leading tackler last year with 48 stops, has been moved to linebacker. D.J. Smith is the other backup safety along with Lammons.
“I think I was comfortable (at safety). It was different being able to read the offenses,” Lammons said. “I’ve always played corner but whatever helps the team. I’ll play safety if that’s what the coaches need me to do.”
Lammons also will practice as a cornerback some this spring, but for now senior Rico McWilliams and sophomore Rashad Fenton are listed as the starting cornerbacks. Fenton responded well to his new position Tuesday, intercepting the first pass of team work during the first spring practice and returning it for a touchdown.
Fenton, McWilliams, Lammons and Antoine Wilder all will train at the nickel back position as well.
The Gamecocks were ninth in the SEC in pass defense last season, allowing 212.4 yards per game through the air. No defensive back had more than one interception. Lammons blamed last year’s struggles in the secondary on a lack of experience.
“I’d just say we need more work,” he said.
It seems like they’re going to get it, too.