COLUMBIA, S.C. – Senior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams knows the South Carolina coaches are expecting a lot out of him in 2017.
That comes with the territory when you’re a senior at a position with no experience beyond the starters.
Allen-Williams is one of three scholarship linebackers returning from last season, but he’s the only one of the group who saw significant playing time. Skai Moore was out with a neck injury and T.J. Brunson was a freshman waiting his turn behind a couple of seniors.
“It’s fun. You know you’re going to get the reps. Because, in the game, during the season, you know there’s only going to be a couple of guys who get reps during the game,” Allen-Williams said. “It’s getting that stamina up, practicing and getting a lot of reps in practice.
“When the season comes around, I know I’m going to get a lot of reps during the season. It’s just preparing me for that right now.”
The South Carolina coaches will have to count on some of the four first-year linebackers to fill in the spots behind Allen-Williams, Moore and Brunson. Unfortunately, for the Gamecocks, Davonne Bowen, Sherrod Greene, Damani Staley and Eldridge Thompson aren’t going through spring practice.
It’s not the only area where there’s going to be a lot of youth. South Carolina’s defense will also feature a handful of younger defensive linemen. Given the way the two levels of the defense play off one another, it’s a cause for concern.
Fortunately, most of those linemen are already on campus.
“I think M.J. Webb is going to be a good player. He’s doing a really good job,” Allen-Williams said. “Aaron Thompson is coming along. A lot of those guys up front are coming along.”
If you haven’t quit reading and thrown your phone/tablet/laptop across the room, thanks for sticking around. It would be understandable if you had, because South Carolina’s punt return production in 2016 was a nightmare.
When they actually caught a punts last season, 14 were returned for 89 yards. The 6.36 yards per return average was 95th in the country.
During practice this spring, wide receiver Bryan Edwards and cornerbacks Rashad Fenton and Chris Lammons are the primary candidates to win the punt return job for the opener against N.C. State.
“It’s just some work, man. Whoever it is, may the best man win. That’s how it is,” Fenton said.
Fenton added that incoming freshman Jamyest Williams will jump into the mix when he arrives this summer.
“I know he’s a helluva athlete. I think I watched a couple of clips on Twitter, just of people retweeting it, but other than that, I’ve heard he’s a very good athlete,” Fenton said. “He’s a part of our team, so I have nothing to worry about.”
Elliott Fry, the all-time leading scorer in South Carolina football history, is gone. But he did have some encouraging things to say about his potential replacement.
“We have a pretty good freshman kicker in Alex Woznick who will probably be playing next year,” Fry said, before the end of last season. “He’ll have four years with a really progressive team that’s probably going to be really good the next four years.”
Fry’s point: Woznick is going to have a great shot to break the school scoring record.
“It definitely boosted my confidence, but it left a lot out there for me trying to fill his shoes,” Woznick said. “Elliott was very good. He did a lot for this school. That’s something I’ve got to fill now.”
Bring it on.
“I started off kind of rough the first two (spring) practices, then it got better after that,” Woznick said.
“Just mental side of the game, I guess It’s just different, because Elliott wasn’t there,” he said. “I actually had to focus a little more.”