Josh Kendall

Gamecocks defender goes from sad story to starting lineup

As fall camp began, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp believed Darius English would be a situational player at most for the Gamecocks this season. With two weeks left before the season opener, English is a starter.

The concern surrounding English, a senior defensive end, centered around a hip injury that bothered him during spring practice and didn’t seem to be getting better. The coaching staff decided English would be deployed sparingly. Instead, the Atlanta native has been on the field every practice.

Head athletic trainer “Clint Haggard and our training staff did a fantastic job with him this summer,” Muschamp said.

English deserves his share of the credit, too, Muschamp said.

“The guy has done a fantastic job of taking care of his body,” Muschamp said. “He gives us a little fast twitch on the edge, which we need, and he has practiced every rep and every practice and has never said one word.”

The “fast twitch” Muschamp refers to means pass-rushing ability. It’s something South Carolina fans have expected from English since he signed with the Gamecocks in 2012 as a PARADE All-American and Georgia’s Class AAAAA defensive player of the year. Until last season, most people, including English, wondered where that ability went. In his first two seasons, English totaled 1.5 sacks.

“I kind of felt pressure every year to get to the quarterback,” he said. “I kind of did a little bit last year, so it definitely gave me some confidence coming into this year.”

English didn’t start last season, but led the team with 4.5 sacks. This year, he’s optimistic he can boost that number as a starter. His goal, he said, is to “help the team however I can, especially on third down.”

English has been working most practices at the Gamecocks’ new Buck position, a cross between a defensive end and strongside linebacker.

“You have to be an athlete who can play the run, play the pass, come in and be physical, do a lot of things for us,” South Carolina assistant coach Mike Peterson said of the Buck. “There is a lot expected from the position.”

Freshman Daniel Fennell and junior Bryson Allen-Williams (who’s expected to start at weakside linebacker) are also working at Buck. The 6-foot-6, 245-pound English is a good fit for the position, said Peterson, who coaches the Buck and strongside linebacker positions.

“He has the size,” Peterson said. “We are just trying to tailor the things we have done in the past with the position to the things he can do.”

English has seven starts, 74 tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss and six sacks in his career. Having him on the field and healthy for an entire season will help the Gamecocks’ young defense, Peterson said.

“He’s been here a while so he’s familiar with college football and the things you need to do off the field and getting your body ready to play,” Peterson said.

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