In the SEC Country South Carolina football mailbag last week, one reader asked about the potential pro draft stock for Gamecocks seniors.
Great question. Not so great of an answer from yours truly.
There are plenty of opportunities for guys who can play nickelback in the NFL. The careers can be long and very lucrative, especially if they can also play cornerback, safety and return punts — all of the assignments Chris Lammons has handled during his four years at South Carolina.
Earlier this month, Inside the League’s Ryan Hollern, a former scout for the New Orleans Saints and Buffalo Bills, deemed that Lammons was a player to watch, because he can “drop and cover inside” and that “increases his stock” as a pro prospect.
As South Carolina’s defense grew in Year 2 under coach Will Muschamp, it’s been a little too easy to get caught up in what we didn’t see much of or at all in Year 1, and we saw plenty of Lammons.
As a junior, he was one of eight players to start every contest for the Gamecocks, either as a cornerback or nickelback. For the season, he had 53 tackles, was tied for eighth in the SEC with 3 interceptions and was named co-Most Productive Player on Defense by South Carolina’s coaches.
Seven games into 2017, Lammons has started every game at safety, though he’s also played a few snaps at nickel. Certain analytics have shown that he’s among the top performing safeties in the country.
“He’s done an outstanding job,” Muschamp said. “Sometimes that’s a hard move for a guy who really played well at corner last year for us and then all of a sudden you are asking him to move and play a totally different position that is a little bit foreign to him, but he has worked extremely hard at it and I think he has been very productive.”
For Lammons’ performance against Tennessee, he was recognized by Pro Football Focus as one of the SEC’s best-rated defenders that week. It probably wasn’t a factor in the honor, but he also returned 4 punts for 49 yards against the Volunteers.
This season, he’s returned 12 punts for 107 yards for an 8.9-yard average, which is fourth in the SEC and 26th in the country. As inconsequential as the play was, a lot of folks still remember his big return against North Carolina State, or at least what it could have been.
Lammons is one of the most versatile players on this team, if not the most. Let’s try to keep that in mind as we discuss how good he can be over the next five games and beyond.
“Versatility creates value for you as a player,” Muschamp said. “This is really going to help him moving forward. … He can play multiple spots. He is extremely bright, extremely intelligent. He has man coverage ability, which is really going to help us moving forward. He’s a guy who has made some really nice plays for us this year.”