Josh Kendall

This USC player 'has changed his life.' Can he change his production?

South Carolina football defensive end Shameik Blackshear during the 2018 spring game.
South Carolina football defensive end Shameik Blackshear during the 2018 spring game.

As a junior in high school, Shameik Blackshear was a can’t-miss prospect. As he enters his junior year in college, people are wondering if he might.

“I would call him my project kid,” South Carolina defensive ends coach Mike Peterson said. “We are trying to find, ‘What does he do really, really well in this system?’”

Blackshear was a five-star prospect at Bluffton High School at one point, but a knee injury during his senior season and off-field incidents have hamstrung his development. In three years, the first of which isn’t held against him because of a medical redshirt season, he has totaled 10 tackles and no sacks.

Blackshear’s lack of production is no longer because of lack of trying, Peterson said.

“He’s changed his life,” Peterson said. “You hear him talk about it, and you see it out on the field. I try to tell the guys, the way you live away from football usually funnels over to your production on the field. He’s taking care of everything away from ball, and it’s showing up in practice.”

Figuring out the best way to reach and coach Blackshear has been a challenge for Peterson.

“You have to relate to each guy a little different,” Peterson said. “My job was to find out what button to push to get that guy going. I try to stay positive with him but also be hard on him. Getting him to trust in me, I think that’s what showing up with me.”

Blackshear, 6-foot-5, 270 pounds, worked this spring as a backup defensive end.

“For me to be a starter, just come to practice every day with a working mindset, be consistent and just willing to be coached,” Blackshear said. “But it’s all in God’s plan for me to be great. Whenever he wants me to be great, I’ll be great.”