COLUMBIA, S.C. – The outside confidence in South Carolina’s secondary might not have been much toward the end of last season. That did little to sway a steadfast belief for Chris Lammons. The junior cornerback insisted Wednesday he was confident in the team’s defensive backs despite documented struggles last year.
When Lammons talks about the confidence he has now, he’s speaking with more certainty.
“I felt the same way last year,” Lammons said, “but I feel way better because we are smarter, older, and we are playing way harder than we did last year.”
The defensive backs were the subject of much scrutiny in recent seasons. Upon his arrival, coach Will Muschamp said the secondary was “light years away.”
Lammons, a starting cornerback along with Rico McWilliams, thinks the unit is coming along through fall practice. Lammons also is aware of the viewpoint Muschamp brings. “(Muschamp) still thinks we could improve (in) certain areas.”
The new coaching staff is getting “a lot” of the credit for the unit’s progress, Lammons said.
“I feel like we are ready to play, and we are going to surprise a lot of people,” Lammons said.
McWilliams, a senior, agreed with Lammons that the secondary should surprise people this season. McWilliams was less effusive in his confidence, noting he and Lammons express themselves differently. Instead, McWilliams talked about the players learning from Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson.
“We just gotta keep believing in coach,” McWilliams said. “Everything is going to work out. We are going to be fine. We’ve just gotta keep believing.”
Much of that need for belief comes in adjusting to a new approach to playing corner. Muschamp and Robinson favor a press-man scheme. It’s a drastic change from the previous regime, which had corners playing off the line regularly and not bumping receivers on their release.
Muschamp previously said a scheme won’t be forced if the players can’t do it. Lammons said he relishes the chance to challenge receivers.
McWilliams said fit is a matter of belief.
“Any scheme can fit a secondary if you just believe,” McWilliams said. “If you believe in what coach T-Rob is doing, it will fit. If you don’t believe, it won’t fit. Everybody is buying in believing in that it will work. We are going to be pretty good. We just have to keep believing in what coach is doing.”
That has meant increased hitting, increased physicality and adapting through the first 10 or so practices of fall camp. If Lammons is to be believed, the light years of necessary improvement have been shrinking.
Senior safety Jordan Diggs explained the unit’s mindset.
“I think like the mentality is just heads down and working,” Diggs said. “Working every day. They are coaching us hard every day. Every day there is new challenges and stuff to learn. For the guys to just keep learning, stay anchored and keep working hard. It’s been fun.”
Mike Wilson covers South Carolina athletics for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on the Gamecocks.