There are a myriad of fantastically intriguing position battles that the Gamecock football team will have between now and the August 28th opener against Texas A&M on the SEC Network.
Some of these battles could be decided in the spring, while others will won and lost during summer practice. Of these, perhaps the most fun to watch will be the arms race at defensive tackle, the frantic scramble at cornerback, and the vitally important, backup quarterback.
O.K., so position battle may be a stretch. The term “position battle” generally requires that there are enough players at the position to have any sort of competition. Since Victor Hampton Jr., Jimmy Legree, and Ahmad Christian left USC for various reasons, there are only three cornerbacks left on the roster, one of whom played running back as recently as the Coastal Carolina game.
Jamari Smith, Rico McWilliams, and Sidney Rhodes are the only true corners on the roster. Brison Williams spent some of the 15 spring practices in anticipation of a worst case scenario where none of the five incoming defensive backs work out.
While this is unlikely, Lorenzo Ward was pleased with Williams’ performance at corner, and because there is enough depth at the safety position with J.J. Marcus, T.J. Gurley, and Chaz Elder, Williams could be expected to see some action at corner, especially early on.
Throughout the spring, Ward was adamant about working with the guys that he had and not looking to August, when he will get his hands on some young talent. Despite his efforts, Ward seems to have been disappointed with the progress of his guys. “We feel like we didn’t get the progress we wanted as coaches from Rico and Jamari, but towards the end both of them got better” (Hood, Gamecockcentral).
While experience usually wins out over raw talent, particularly in the SEC, only Rico McWilliams has any experience at cornerback, and even he could be challenged and uprooted by one of the young guns.
Beginning August 1, the Ward and secondary coach Grady Brown will have 27 days to give Wesley Green, Chris Lammons, Al Harris Jr., Darin Smalls, and D.J. Smith the most hardcore college cornerback crash course imaginable.
Of these, the most highly touted are Wesley Green, whom Rivals rated the 17th best cornerback in the country (208 overall), and Chris Lammons, who is listed as an athlete but will almost certainly be put to work in the secondary.
Plantation, Florida native Chris Lammons boasts a 4.41 forty-yard dash (per Rivals), but at 5-foot-9, 167 pounds, he is the smallest incoming defensive back.
Another 4-star recruit will be in the mix is D.J. Smith, who, at 6 feet, 193 pounds, seems to be built more like a safety, but is considered by Rivals to be the 26th best cornerback in the country.
Unfortunately, numbers, especially high school recruiting numbers, are gravy. The impressive speed, size, and number of stars attached to a players name do not mean anything if he cannot learn the system and deal with the grind of a full SEC schedule.
It is nearly impossible to judge at this point, who will come in and make an impact and who will fall by the wayside, but what is certain is that come August 1, this will be the most watched, the most anticipated, and likely the most important position battle that will transpire this year.
Fully loaded at linebacker, safety, and defensive end, and impressively reloading at defensive end means that cornerback could be the biggest weakness on what could be an otherwise tenacious defense once again. If Ward and Brown can figure it out, and if even one of the freshman ends up being the kind of pleasant surprise that Skai Moore was last season, it could be a scary year for opposing offenses.