COLUMBIA, S.C. — For any first-year player at South Carolina, learning the ins and outs of Will Muschamp’s defense is no small feat.
The Gamecocks have three players in that position right now, as they approach the halfway point of spring practice.
The most experienced of them is former Clemson cornerback Kaleb Chalmers, who spent last year at Northwest Mississippi Community College. Safety Jaylin Dickerson and defensive end M.J. Webb graduated high school in December, to enroll for spring practice at South Carolina.
Senior defensive tackle Taylor Stallworth empathizes with Webb, a 4-star recruit in 247Sports’ composition rankings who is from Rutledge, Ga. Transitioning from high school lineman to college lineman is quite a jump
“It was very hard for me, because you’re not the best player on the team,” Stallworth said. “Everybody around you is great, and the speed of the game, you’ve got to get used to that. I’m pretty sure it was hard on (Webb) for the first part, but I’m pretty sure he’s getting used to it now.”
That first part was bowl practice. Webb was able to suit up for a handful of those workouts before the Gamecocks took off for the Birmingham Bowl
“When he came in for bowl practice, he was still the young guy, fresh out of high school, so he didn’t know much,” Stallworth said. “He’s starting to get to know the system better, taking on blocks better. He’s progressing.”
Senior safety D.J. Smith, the team’s leading tackler in 2016, is impressed with Dickerson’s athleticism.
“He’s got some size to him. He’s physical, too. He can hit,” Smith said. “His thing is he’s got to learn more, pick up the defense.
“Then, I feel like he’ll be good.”
Dickerson is working with the second-team defense at safety, alongside Javon Charleston. Chalmers is bouncing between cornerback and nickel on that unit.
“He’s athletic, too,” Smith said of Dickerson. “Everybody we’ve got is athletic. It’s just from the standpoint of them knowing what we’re doing.”
Fortunately, for Chalmers, Dickerson, Webb and the defense as a whole, there’s plenty of time to get acclimated — the 2017 opener against N.C. State is still about six months away.