COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson is trying to make life difficult for freshman defensive back Jamyest Williams.
During the first few days of preseason camp, the top-rated signee from the Gamecocks 2017 class has cross-trained at cornerback and nickel back.
“It’s a lot for a freshman to come in and play two spots,” Robinson said. “(That’s) one thing we’re doing right now. We’ll saturate him a little bit more as we put on the pads and just primarily play him at some nickel.”
That’s when Williams’ role will be a little bit more defined. Through the first four days, Robinson said, Williams has been up to the challenge, proving himself to be a “really good, talented player,” which is exactly what South Carolina’s coaches thought when they recruited him out of Grayson High School in Loganville, Ga.
“He’s competing like we know he would, so we’re excited about him,” Robinson said.
This much is certain, at least through the first week of camp: Williams won’t see anytime on the offensive side of the ball.
“If they do that, then I’ll take Shi (Smith) on defense,” Robinson said, with a laugh. “I’m sure the offense won’t agree to do that.”
Robinson has plenty of other first-year defensive backs to work with right now, including junior college transfer Keisean Nixon, who joined the team on Tuesday, for the second day of practice. Thursday was his first workout in shoulder pads.
“He’s got a good skillset,” Robinson said. “Obviously, he doesn’t know what he’s doing right now. He’s running around, trying to get the ball off people. We’ll continue to meet with him extra and all that kind of stuff, to get him up-to-date on what we’re doing, but he’s doing a really good job and we’re excited to have him here.”
With only four scholarship linebackers returning in 2017, the Gamecocks will have to count on at least a couple of the first-year players to provide depth at the position.
“I’ve really been impressed with Sherrod Greene,” Robinson said. “Eldridge Thompson is a guy, Damani (Staley) is a guy that’s going to compete. He’s coming along. We moved Davonne Bowen inside.
“We’ve got some guys that can provide some depth. We’ve just got to continue to work with them. It’s a lot of stuff we’re throwing at them.”
On the line
Depth along the defensive line is another concern, so a few other 2017 signees will have a shot to see significant playing time this fall.
“I think (Javon) Kinlaw has done some really nice things,” Robinson said. “I think Brad Johnson has done some nice things. I think Aaron Sterling has done some nice things, so we’ve got to continue to build that.”
Because of his size, which is listed at 6-foot-6, 326 pounds, Kinlaw commands two blockers.
“And that’s the one thing,” Robinson said, “We need someone that can hold the point. When you look at some of the games when we had the ball ran down our throat a little bit, that would probably be what you look at, just couldn’t hang in there because we didn’t have the girth and he provides instant girth.”
Robinson was also asked specifically about M.J. Webb, who enrolled in January.
“He’s doing a good job as well,” Robinson said. “The one thing about M.J. is he plays hard. He plays to the echo of the whistle and that’s important to us and he’s got a lot of fight to him. He’s just learning what to do, how to kind of get into the scheme and get things done.”