COLUMBIA, S.C. — Travaris Robinson, the third-year defensive coordinator for the South Carolina football team, has no problem admitting he was wrong.
Robinson is actually happy that he whiffed on his assessment of Javon Kinlaw, who arrived to South Carolina as a 340-pound project.
“I will be the first to tell you I’m shocked,” Robinson said. “I would never tell you that I thought he would lose that much weight. I’d never thought that his effort and his quickness and all that stuff would be up to par like it is.”
Over the first few months after he showed up from Jones County Junior College, the 6-foot-6 defensive tackle dropped close to 15 pounds. Now, during his first spring practice with the Gamecocks, Kinlaw is listed at a svelte 302.
Kinlaw’s commitment to minimize that number was something that he cooked up with South Carolina’s head coach.
“That’s just a me and [Will] Muschamp thing,” Kinlaw said. “That’s what he wanted, me to attack the offseason program and I feel like it’s been in my mind, so I felt like I had to do it, and I feel like I’ve done a good job with the lifting and conditioning part.”
These days, according to the Gamecocks defensive coordinator, there’s more to the former 4-star recruit than upside.
“He’s a talented, talented dude and the sky’s the limit for him, it really is,” Robinson said. “He’s a worker. When you get big people like that, that’s one thing you worry about – will they work? And the guy works. He works in the offseason program. He works in practice and he works in the game. We’re excited about him.”
Weight loss aside, Kinlaw has provided plenty for South Carolina’s coaches to be excited about, after making 20 tackles over 13 games, 10 of which were starts.
“We’re going to need him to be in shape, because we don’t have a bunch of people behind him,” Robinson said. “So he’s going to have to stay out there a long time.”
Kinlaw clearly understands that. For him, the proof is in the pudding.
“For me, I can tell it’s a lot easier for me, because I can run to the ball,” he said. “I can run 40 yards downfield, come back, line up, play the next play and not be tired.”