COLUMBIA, S.C. – The days of helmets and shorts and the practices with shoulder pads are now behind South Carolina, as the Gamecocks will move into full pads for Saturday’s practice.
“I really do look forward to full pads,” defensive end Daniel Fennell said. “It’s something you wait for all year.
“I don’t think it will be much different. We may go full-contact in our scrimmages with tackling to the ground, but we already board drill and already thudding. So it will be a seamless transition.”
Defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson seconded that thought, saying that shoulder pads and shorts and full pads are the same to him.
“We are going to be smart and protect our teammates,” Robinson said.
But on the field, the players know there will be a different feel, as senior linebacker T.J. Holloman noted that everyone has to get mentally prepared for an even more physical practice Saturday.
“Everyone, we’re finally all coming together, the young guys and the older guys,” linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams said. “So we’re excited to go out there full-go, so it’s just one step closer to Vanderbilt.”
The quest to replace Moore
South Carolina knew one of its biggest tasks this fall would be to replace senior linebacker Skai Moore, who will be out for 2016 after having neck fusion surgery.
The players in the mix are many at this point, as Robinson listed off a handful of linebackers – Allen-Williams, Holloman, Jonathan Walton, T.J. Brunson and Sherrod Pittman – that are playing well and what will be needed from them.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that are starting to do different things for us,” Robinson said. “They’ve gotta be able to play multiple positions for us, MIKE and WILL, and even go out to SAM a little bit when we get into our regular package. So those guys are doing a really great job and I really appreciate the job Coach (Coleman) Hutzler is doing with them, of getting them the discipline, getting them the details to do the job they need to do.”
Young D-linemen coming along
With South Carolina’s hopes of playing a lot of defensive linemen this season, the opportunity for younger players to contribute is very real.
Senior Darius English singled out a couple that have been coming along well so far. First, he named early enrollee Keir Thomas, a 6-foot-2 defensive end from Miami. Then he named freshman D.J. Wonnum, who is just a few days into his college career.
“Those guys are doing really well,” English said.
Players bouncing back from injury
USC was down a handful of players this spring, preventing some from getting the chance to break into the new system with a new staff.
Holloman said the players, which included defensive end Shameik Blackshear, safety Jordan Diggs and defensive tackle Dante Sawyer, have been looking good through the first few days of fall camp.
“They’ve bought into it,” Holloman said. “Jordan Diggs missed spring, but he has been buying into it. You see him every day working really hard, giving maximum effort. It’s been great for those guys.”
Good health report
Robinson was asked if there are any injuries so far this fall camp, and the defensive coordinator gave a good report.
“Right now, we feel really good about that,” he said. “I don’t know anything about any injuries.”
Mike Wilson covers South Carolina athletics for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on the Gamecocks.