Josh Kendall

Allen-Williams made most of lost season. Now USC has plan for 2018 to be his best

South Carolina’s 2017 football team got worse when Bryson Allen-Williams left the field for the season with a shoulder injury in the third game. Allen-Williams himself might have gotten better.

“I could go on for days and days about what I learned,” the Gamecocks senior linebacker said.

Relegated to watching, he decided to watch as much and as well as he could.

“It was a big learning experience for me,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever watched that much film. I actually studied the game.”

Allen-Williams’ chief attribute through his first three seasons was his athleticism. The former four-star prospect has 135 career tackles in four seasons. (He received a medical redshirt for last season, allowing him to return for a fifth year this season.) Now, Allen-Williams and his coaches believe he will channel that athleticism more effectively.

“It’s still a work in progress. Bryson is a guy who has played a number of positions since he’s been here,” defensive ends and outside linebackers coach Mike Peterson said. “What I’m trying to get him to do know is figure out, ‘What do you do really, really well?’ and let’s focus on that and playing within the system. He feels like he’s an inside linebacker. You’re outside, you have to stay outside. You’re rushing, you have to keep rushing. Just simplifying some of the things we want from him and keeping him playing within the system.”

Allen-Williams will play the strongside linebacker position and some Buck defensive end this season, the positions at which Peterson and South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp feel he can best utilize his pass rush skills. Muschamp calls Allen-Williams the team’s “best edge rusher” because of his speed.

“Losing him was a huge blow to us last year,” Muschamp said. “Bryson gives you an edge presence to really win on the edge with speed. He has worked extremely hard on the mental side of it and physically. I think he’s having a good camp.”

Allen-Williams, 6-foot-1, 237 pounds, has 4.5 career sacks and has never had more than two in a season. Two of them came in three games last year.

“I feel like I’ve got speed. As far as working on my moves, last year you could see my development into being a real college pass rusher working with Coach (Peterson),” he said. “Being off the field for a whole year and sitting and watching D.J. (Wonnum) pass rush, watching Brad (Johnson) pass rush, watching all the guys, being on the sideline and constantly in the meeting room with them helped me.”

Allen-Williams never had any doubt he would return to the Gamecocks this season rather than making himself eligible for the NFL draft.

“It’s kind of surreal just going through the process I had to go through to get back to this point. It’s been a long process, but I’m thankful to be back,” he said. “God works in mysterious ways, so just having this fifth year, I never expected it, but I’m glad it came. I am just excited for training camp to develop even more, and then Sept. 1 let the world see what it’s going to be this year.”

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC