Josh Kendall

‘Mental inconsistencies’ cost T.J. Brunson production in 2018

South Carolina middle linebacker T.J. Brunson was seventh in the SEC in tackles a year ago with more than eight per game. The Gamecocks expected him to lead their team in tackles, and he did, with 106.

It’s clear, though, that South Carolina is expecting more in 2019, which will be Brunson’s final season with the team.

“I think T.J. unfortunately was working through some injuries that he battled throughout (last) year and just had some mental inconsistencies,” Gamecocks linebackers coach Coleman Hutzler said.

Brunson, who starred locally at Richland Northeast High School, is sitting out spring practice this year due to a sports hernia and meniscus injury. He has spent the extra time in the meeting room, Hutzler said.

“He has put a lot of time working on the mental part of the game,” Hutzler said. “The biggest difference from high school to college is the amount of time and investment it takes off the field. There’s only so much time you can do on the field but there is so much more to the game, and that’s where we have to raise our level.”

Brunson has 26 career starts and 206 career tackles. Redshirt freshman Ernest Jones is working at first team middle linebacker this spring in Brunson’s absence.

“In a weird way, it is a good thing,” Hutzler said. “I can’t wait to get T.J. back. He is one of the leaders of our defense and our team, but this has put Ernest in a great spot as the starting Mike and starting communicator. In a backwards way, it is a positive.”