South Carolina sent three offensive players to SEC Media Days for the first time ever in 2017, and head coach Will Muschamp knew that would raise some eyebrows.
Muschamp addressed it in his opening statements, saying that scheduling conflicts impacted that decision before joking that they may not have wanted to come after allowing 46 points in the Birmingham Bowl.
“The last time we brought defensive guys to Birmingham, it didn’t go so good,” Muschamp said.
He's right, and while the Gamecocks defense had some good moments throughout the season, there was a fair share of bad ones as well, particularly against Clemson and USF. However, with impact players Bryson Allen-Williams and Chris Lammons returning and former leading tackler Skai Moore coming back after missing all of last season, there are still some bright spots on that side of the ball.
"He's a tough young man," Muschamp said when asked about Moore. "He's going to be fine. My expectation for him is to play extremely well."
Moore led the Gamecocks in tackles in each of his first three seasons, so that should be the expectation.
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Muschamp is known for fielding strong defenses (not so much for strong offenses), and he's being tasked with bolstering the South Carolina pass rush, which has fallen off over the last three seasons. After losing the team's sack leader in Darius English, Muschamp will turn to multiple looks up front.
"I think the biggest thing is being able to affect the quarterback with four guys rushing," Muschamp said. "With all of the spread teams you play, they're making you defend the whole field. Five-man pressure is great. But that generally means man coverage or some sort of you have two-trap coverage."
Muschamp mentioned D.J. Wonnum, Dante Sawyer and Taylor Stallworth as linemen with pass rush potential, but he wants to incorporate more pressure from the linebacker position as well.
"We need to utilize Bryson Allen-Williams in the pass rush," Muschamp added. "He's got natural pass-rush ability. We have a situation number wise last year, which didn't work to utilize him more. And we need to do that more."
Linebacker is the apparent weak link this season — Allen-Williams, Moore and T.J. Brunson are the only scholarship players at the position other than true freshmen — replacing the secondary, which was a major question mark heading into 2016. The defensive backs had their moments last season, but Muschamp was less critical Thursday than he was last season.
"Chris Lammons is a guy that can do a lot of things for us," Muschamp said. "He can play corner, nickel or safety. 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. And D.J. Smith played his best ball in the spring. I'm really excited to see him play this year. JaMarcus King and Rashad Fenton are two guys that can play well for us at the corner position, and Steven Montac can move around."
Additionally, the Gamecocks have true freshman cornerback Jamyest Williams, who could move up the depth chart quickly when the team begins practice July 31.