As August football practice winds down, position battles begin to wrap up and groups start to settle.
With a season opener a week out, that seem to be happening for in South Carolina’s secondary.
“As the days go by, the countdowns begin to our first game, everybody has found their place in this DB chart,” Fenton said. “Coach, they know what’s good for the DBs. They put everybody in the best position.”
Through open practices, the top group seemed to include Chaz Elder and D.J. Smith at safety, Chris Lammons and Fenton at outside corner and Jordan Diggs at nickel. With Diggs nursing a shoulder injury of late, Fenton was spending some time in the slot. Jamarcus King, a top-rated incoming JUCO prospect said he had worked with the No. 1 unit but isn’t a starter.
Bringing the pain
Gamecocks running back Rod Talley has the task of running against the Gamecocks defense every day, and he’s noticed a shift when it comes to the back seven.
“Coach Muschamp really wants them to be physical as a secondary,” Talley said. “It’s always, when we’re running the ball, track us, track our hips, run after us, don’t let us just run by.”
The tailback from Laurens said he’s also seen progress from the linebackers, notably Bryson Allen-Williams, Jonathan Walton and T.J. Holloman. He agreed with an assessment that they’re stepping up to fill the vacuum left by Skai Moore’s season-ending injury.
“I think they will bring the pain when it’s game day,” Talley said.
Throw to the backs
South Carolina’s previous offensive regime was decent at getting its tailbacks involved in the passing game. They were not a focus by any means, but each season a back or two gave them modest production.
That shouldn’t change with Kurt Roper’s scheme.
“We’re in the passing game as running backs,” Gamecocks running backs coach Bobby Bentley said. “So as a running back, we’ve got to have good hands. We’ve got to have good pass protection. We don’t want to have to be able to say, ‘Which running back is going to have to be in for just strictly pass protection?’ All of us have to be good pass protectors.”
That might be tricky as projected starting tailback A.J. Turner is on the smaller side (195 pounds), but he’s got the speed to make plays after the catch.
As an inside linebacker coach, Coleman Hutzler works closely with only a small slice of the South Carolina roster. But his other focus, special teams, allows him to get hands-on with much more with the team.
And he leaves quite an impression on all of them.
“He brings the intensity that you like,” Fenton said. “And he also brings the detail aspect to the special teams that you might not even thinks is involved. He takes it serious, like he would take his linebackers. He makes sure everybody on his special teams is doing their part and doing their job well, too.”
The Gamecocks dedicated large swaths of the open practices to special teams, and Hutzler was easy to spot, usually shouting and directing traffic around the field.