COLUMBIA, S.C. – For South Carolina redshirt sophomore Antoine Wilder, there are subtle differences in his approach to playing linebacker and defensive back.
Such is life when there’s a different sized player and caliber of athlete running right at you.
“It’s all about your hands, feet and eyes,” Wilder said of his new position. “If your hands, feet and eyes are perfect, you’re going to be perfect every time.”
Wilder, who started in three of the 12 games he appeared in last season as a nickel and/or safety, finished his redshirt freshman campaign with 15 tackles, 2 tackles for loss and an interception.
Earlier this year, around the halfway point during spring practice, coach Will Muschamp, defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson and linebackers coach Coleman Hutzler approached Wilder with a proposition.
Since he’s not averse to “hitting guys,” Wilder thought moving from defensive back to linebacker would be a “good transition,” especially since there was a pretty clear path to playing time.
“I’d love to,” Wilder told the coaches.
With the position switch, South Carolina’s count on returning scholarship linebackers moved from three to four. Wilder is currently listed behind Bryson Allen-Williams on the second-team defense at strongside linebacker.
“There’s more spots on the field,” Wilder said. “When you go to the next level, they want to see what all you can play, so I love it.”
There’s precedent for the switch: Chris Moody moved from safety to linebacker a year ago.
“It’s like that same exact thing I’m doing right now,” Wilder said.
In the spring, when Wilder’s transition began, his weight was within the range of 185-188. On the eve of preseason camp, he was at 195. The ideal playing weight should range between 195-200.
But that wasn’t the only thing Wilder was instructed to do, when the move was finalized.
“Know what to do, know how to do it. That’s it,” he said, “And keep doing what you do.”
Wilder’s happy to have a part in a linebacker corps that features one of the top overall players in the SEC, not just the South Carolina roster.
“It was a great group, from the jump. … Skai Moore, glad to have him. He’s a great player for us,” Wilder said. “Everybody, all of our freshmen, they’re coming along fast. They’re going to be a big part of what we do here. Everything is just great right now. Just trying to play ball and hit.”