Chris Lammons is one of eight South Carolina players who started every game during the regular season. Finishing games was another matter.
The junior cornerback was on the sideline or in the locker room at the end of games three times this season. Once he was ejected for throwing a punch; once he was ejected for targeting, and once he was benched by head coach Will Muschamp.
It was that benching that sparked a season in which Lammons had 46 tackles, five pass breakups, four tackles-for-loss, three interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble.
“He responded the right way, instead of going into a shell or not responding and not practicing the right way or blaming the coach, he took it on himself, which is what good players do,” Muschamp said.
Muschamp wasn’t happy with his team’s tackling in a 27-14 loss to Mississippi State on Sept. 10. He was the least happy with Lammons, who found himself on the bench for most of the second half.
“To play defense, you’ve got to tackle,” Muschamp said. “The Mississippi State game, there were some missed tackles by him that were unacceptable to me. That was the issue there, but when you know that a young man can play better – because, at the end of the day, as coaches and players, tape is our resume – we addressed those situations with him.”
Muschamp said Lammons took the benching “personal” but in a good way.
“Coach Muschamp saw there was a small thing I needed a critique on and he pushed me,” Lammons said. “That’s what coaches do. I like when coaches correct you and push you toward your goals instead of just saying, ‘It’s alright, it’s OK, we will get better next time.’ Coach Muschamp is the type of coach that is going to push you toward your goals. I was not angry. The coaches don’t tell you something to make you angry, they tell you something to get it right and that’s what I did, I got it right. I agree with him on the situation.”
Lammons’ season took off from there. He was voted the team’s most valuable defensive player, along with defensive end Darius English by his teammates.
“He understood the demands that we had for him to improve as a player, so I credit Chris for that,” Muschamp said.
Lammons is excited about facing South Florida quarterback Quinton Flowers in Thursday’s Birmingham Bowl, he said. Flowers is 10th in the nation in total offense and throws for 2,551 yards this year. What has excited Lammons the most about watching the Bulls on film is Flowers’ propensity to try deep throws during games.
“Their quarterback has a great arm,” Lammons said. “He will just throw a deep ball to a speedy receiver. I barely saw him throw any other routes than the deep balls. Those 50-50 balls, we have to capitalize on them.”
Who: South Carolina (6-6) vs. South Florida (10-2)
When: 2 p.m., Dec. 29
Where: Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
Line: USF by 10