Even though three of the six returning starters on defense for the South Carolina football team occupy spots in the secondary, there’s room for help.
Safety D.J. Smith, who led the Gamecocks in 2016 with 80 tackles, has appeared in 37 games during his career, 12 of which he started. At SEC Media Days, coach Will Muschamp told reporters that Smith “played his best ball in the spring [practice].”
“I’m really excited to see him play this year,” Muschamp said.
Chris Lammons is the most experienced defensive back on South Carolina’s roster. He’s been a starter in 24 of the 31 games he’s played since 2014.
“He can play corner, nickel or safety,” Muschamp said, “And I think his skill set is pretty vast, and I really like his leadership over the summer and how he’s continued to improve.”
Lammons’ 3 interceptions in 2016 were tied with JaMarcus King for the team-high. King, an 11-game starter, played in every game at cornerback.
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Junior cornerback Rashad Fenton is one of the fastest players on the roster. He also played nickel last season, appearing in 12 games, seven of which he started.
Steven Montac played his freshman season at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. As a walk-on last season, Montac saw time at multiple spots in the Gamecocks secondary.
The only other returning scholarship defensive back is redshirt freshman cornerback Chris Smith. Walk-on Javon Charleston, a redshirt sophomore, has bounced back-and-forth between wide receiver and safety.
The next wave
To help fill out a two-deep depth chart in 2017, Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson signed six defensive backs earlier this year, two of whom played JUCO ball last season.
Former Clemson cornerback Kaleb Chalmers joined the program in January, after spending last season at Northwest Mississippi C.C., where he was ranked as the No. 9 JUCO cornerback in the country.
Keisean Nixon, who hasn’t reported to South Carolina, was the No. 18 overall JUCO prospect in the nation. The Salesian High (Los Angeles) product played cornerback at Arizona Western College.
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Safety Jaylin Dickerson committed and enrolled at South Carolina in January with minimal fanfare, but he made a name for himself during winter workouts. Internal excitement spilled over into spring practice, where he continued to outplay his 3-star rating.
The rest of the high school defensive back signees joined him in late May: Zay Brown, Tavyn Jackson and Jamyest Williams.
While Brown profiles as a safety and Jackson as a cornerback, Williams offers a versatility, since he could play all defensive back positions. At No. 74 overall, Williams was the highest-rated prospect in the Gamecocks’ 2017 signing class.
Official roster listing
- (7) JaMarcus King (6-2, 186) – Senior
- (3) Chris Lammons (5-10, 190) – Senior
- (24) D.J. Smith (5-11, 198) – Senior
- (22) Steven Montac (5-11, 181) – Junior ###
- (16) Rashad Fenton (5-10, 184) – Junior
- (9) Keisean Nixon (5-10, 192) – Junior ***
- (12) Kaleb Chalmers (5-10, 180) – RS Sophomore ***
- (17) Javon Charleston (6-0, 183) – RS Junior ###
- (31) Chris Smith (5-10 180) – RS Freshman
- (33) Zay Brown (5-11, 194) – Freshman ***
- (26) Jaylin Dickerson (6-1, 188) – Freshman ***
- (28) Tavyn Jackson (5-10 174) – Freshman ***
- (21) Jamyest Williams (5-9, 175) – Freshman ***
*** Denotes first-year player
### Denotes walk-on