Josh Kendall

One player’s return boosts Gamecocks at multiple positions

In the first four games of the season, South Carolina was desperate for depth in the defensive backfield. When Steven Montac returned from a foot injury two weeks ago against Texas A&M, they suddenly had it.

“When he’s playing for you, you’ve got depth because he can play corner or nickel or dime, he can play both safeties,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “He gives you instant depth across the board and a comfort level as a guy who’s going to go in and do things the way we want them done.”

Montac suffered a foot injury in the second week of fall camp. He tried to play on it in the season-opener against N.C. State but was very limited and then missed the next three games. He returned Sept. 30 against Texas A&M and truly announced his return in a 48-22 win over Arkansas last week.

During his absence, the five starting defensive backs played just about every snap for USC.

Against the Razorbacks, Montac had a big hit that broke up what would have been a third down conversion and had two tackles. He would have had a fumble recovery return for a touchdown if not for a replay review that returned the ball to Arkansas.

“It was so weak when they called it back, but you have to go out there and keep playing. We still got a (defensive) touchdown on that drive so it was alright,” Montac said. “It’s probably the first time I’ve touched the end zone since I’ve been in junior college or college. Everybody was mad. I told (the referee), ‘Dang, you could have gave me that even though he was down.’ He talked about, ‘That was good effort.’ I was like, ‘Forget the effort, I don’t run for no reason.’ ”

The 5-foot-11, 181-pound junior signed with South Carolina last year out of Coffeyville Community College and finished last season with 39 tackles, three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. By the end of that season, he was on the field nearly every snap down the stretch.

“As long as I’m on the field, I’m going to make plays,” Montac said. “I’m going to make plays no matter what position I’m in. There’s nothing I can’t play.”

Going back and forth between safety and cornerback and nickel back during the same game has not been challenge for Montac, he said.

“At the end of the day it’s just football. If the ball is in the air, get the ball. If somebody is running the ball, you have to make tackles,” he said. “It’s just football at the end of the day, and I’m really smart, I’m going to know what I’m going to do so it’s all easy for me personally.”