COLUMBIA, S.C. — Several of the freshmen defensive linemen who signed with Will Muschamp’s first class are expected to play this fall.
Through the first couple of weeks of practice, D.J. Wonnum has drawn a majority of the praise. During Sunday’s teleconference, Muschamp complimented a few others, including Keir Thomas, who was recently moved from end to tackle.
“(Thomas is) a guy that played inside at Miami Central his whole career as an undersized D-lineman,” Muschamp said. “Since he’s been here, he’s just blown up. He’s up to about 270, and I mean that in a good way. He’s changed his body. He’s lifted. He looks good, so really pleased with him.
“Aaron Thompson is a guy that’s going to help us. He needs to continue to grow up and mature, but he has a lot ability. He’s a good SEC defensive lineman, as far as potential is concerned, which is a bad word, but he’s a guy we’re going to continue to rep. Dennis Wonnum has done a fantastic job. Kobe Smith has done a really good job. We’re excited about him.”
Redshirt freshman Shameik Blackshear, who spent most of the offseason recovering from a gunshot wound, has performed well in his return to the field.
“Shameik runs extremely well. Because of the offseason he had, he missed lifting for a year, so it’s really set him back, strength-wise,” Muschamp said.
Because the team lifts twice a week during the season, Muschamp said Blackshear will have an opportunity to get back up to speed with his strength and endurance.
“He’ll build that stuff up and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Muschamp said.
There was only one significant injury from Saturday’s scrimmage.
“(Defensive back) Steven Montac got hit pretty good, but he’ll be back (Monday) … and other than that, we’re still kind of the same on the injury front,” Muschamp said.
K.C. Crosby has been “cleared, full-go” to return to practice on Sunday. The sophomore tight end was limited during the first couple of weeks because of a “chest issue.”
Fellow TE Kyle Markway (foot) is on track to return in a couple of weeks. Freshman DL Stephon Taylor needs to build strength up in the shoulder he had surgery on earlier this spring. Freshman TE Robert Tucker suffered a stinger and could be out until Monday. It’s status quo for LB Larenz Bryant and the two injured running backs, Mon Denson (knee) and Rico Dowdle (groin).
Muschamp announced three position switches, including Thomas’ move from defensive end to defensive tackle.
Freshman Darius Whitfield was moved from defensive line to offensive line, where his brother, Josh Casher, plays at Alabama.
“We’ll see if (Whitfield) can play center or guard for us. We think that’s going to be his future here,” Muschamp said.
With the emergence of several freshman wide receivers, redshirt freshman walk-on Javon Charleston has moved to defensive back.
“We need some more guys back there,” Muschamp said. “Still not done trying to find some more guys that can play for us on the back end.”
Muschamp added, “I’ve been very pleased watching his physicality on special teams. He runs well … this, to me, is a little bit of a reward for him, and he’s going to have an opportunity to play for us, probably a little quicker at DB than he would on the other side.
“He’s a good athlete. He’s got good ball skills. He’s got toughness about him that I like and I’m excited about him, to see what he can do.”