COLUMBIA, S.C. – Two players missing from the defensive line this spring at South Carolina are now getting the chance to make an impression during fall camp.
So far, that has left defensive line coach Lance Thompson seeing positives in both Shameik Blackshear and Dante Sawyer.
“Shameik has done a really good job, especially in terms of coming off that injury he had,” Thompson said. “The guy has showed a lot of toughness. Obviously, his strength level is not what it was because of the injury, but he’s a conscientious guy and he works hard. We are just working to get him as good as we can.”
Blackshear missed the spring after being shot twice in an incident last year, leading to the need, as Thompson said, to continue rebuilding strength in his shoulder. But his length has been noticeable and that is something Thompson likes most about the 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman from Bluffton, S.C.
“He’s a guy I think can develop and have an opportunity this year,” Thompson said.
As for Sawyer, the 6-foot-3 defensive lineman also missed the spring after he had shoulder surgery in the offseason. He started four games in 2015 after transferring in from East Mississippi Community College and has been playing defensive end in the fall.
“Dante’s working hard,” Thompson said. “He’s a guy that has an edge to him. He has toughness and, hopefully, we can put him in some situations to make some plays this fall.”
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King back and forth
Jamarcus King still is working his way along as the junior college transfer is, for now, mostly working with the “garnet” group of defensive backs. He does get some time working with the “black” unit, which is to say the first group.
Junior defensive back Chris Lammons said that “black” group consists of himself, Rico McWilliams, Rashad Fenton, Chaz Elder, D.J. Smith and Jordan Diggs.
Despite the fact King and fellow junior college transfer Steven Montac are working with the “garnet” group, Lammons feels they can still be expected to contribute.
“Very good players,” he said. “I feel like they can help us as two players on this team.”
Young linebackers catching on
The expected first three linebackers for the Gamecocks this season appear mostly set with a combination of Bryson Allen-Williams, T.J. Holloman and Jonathan Walton. But behind that trio, a pair of young players have been showing well so far as true freshmen T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Pittman have drawn praise.
“The intensity and the way they have been learning, especially Brunson,” Walton said of what is making the duo impressive. “He has been catching on pretty quick coming straight out of high school into this complicated defense. He has been learning pretty quick and Pittman has been doing great also.”
As for Brunson, Walton expanded on the strong impression made by the first-year player out of Columbia Richland Northeast.
“He has been adjusting to the defense and this is definitely one of the most complicated,” Walton said. “He’s definitely adjusting to it.”
Diggs lighter, feeling faster
Jordan Diggs is lighter, feeling faster and healed from offseason shoulder surgery.
“I definitely feel back to normal,” he said. “Playing fast, moving well. I actually feel faster.”
The senior safety is down to 205 pounds, after playing at 217 when he was a SPUR linebacker in previous seasons.
“I’m moving around, having fun with the defense and learning it,” Diggs said. “Coach has been putting me in some positions where I feel like I can make plays on the ball. It’s been great.”
He has been spending time at safety and also getting snaps as a nickelback along with Fenton.
Mike Wilson covers South Carolina athletics for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on the Gamecocks.