COLUMBIA, S.C. – There’s a foursome of hybrid edge players that could make significant contributions to the South Carolina football team.
The Gamecocks’ buck position, which combines elements of playing defensive end and outside linebacker, was primarily occupied last season by Darius English, who led the team with 9 sacks. With English’s departure, bucks coach Mike Peterson said, “you can go down the list” and find things to like about his potential replacements: Bryson Allen-Williams, Daniel Fennell, Brad Johnson and D.J. Wonnum
“My whole group of guys is playing at a high level right now,” Peterson said, “And I’m really excited about it.”
According to the Gamecocks depth chart, Wonnum is listed on the first team. Plus, anytime reporters have been invited to watch a few periods of South Carolina’s practice, the 6-foot-4, 251-pound sophomore is with the starting base defense.
While Allen-Williams is listed on the depth chart as a starting linebacker, he’s spent a lot of practice time working with Peterson and the rest of the bucks.
“We’ve got packages for him, so he’s definitely going to be on the field,” Peterson said. “I don’t want to tip my hand too much, but he’s with the buck guys, the buck position right now.”
The senior, 6-foot, 230 pounds, was second last season among Gamecocks defenders with 75 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss, which he did primarily from the linebacker position.
“He’s an athletic guy, he can run,” Peterson said. “You see him play the game, when he makes plays, he loves football. I love guys that are tough guys that love football that can run. When he makes a play, he’s having fun, so I think that carries over to some of the younger guys.”
Johnson, a 6-2, 225-pound freshman from Pendleton (S.C.) High School, is one of many “younger guys” who will be counted on as a contributor this fall.
“I’ve been on him really hard the last couple of weeks,” Peterson said. “I expect a lot out of him and I think he’s taking it, he’s taking to coaching well, which I expected him to do, coming in.
“We’re not going to crown him yet and start printing T-shirts, it’s still a long way to go. I’m excited about what I see in camp right now and the way he’s working.”
At this time a year ago, Wonnum was the freshman buck making noise during preseason camp. Well, he’s back at it again, showing he’s ready to take the next step.
“He changed his body. I talked with him a lot this summer about – last year, he had a high school body,” Peterson said. “Right now, you look like a college football player and it’s showing up on the field.”
Fennell, a 6-3, 244-pound redshirt sophomore, rounds out the position group.
“He’s having a great camp. He’s probably the forgotten guy right now, but he’s playing great for us right now,” Peterson said. “I think he’s going to contribute a lot on special teams, as well.”