Among a solid defensive side, South Carolina will look to junior defensive lineman D.J. Wonnum's strength to be a vital defensive weapon in the 2018 season.
Wonnum is returning as a captain and one of the Gamecocks' strongest forces on defense.
Last season, he accounted for 6.0 sacks and 13.0 tackles in the 2017 season. Still, Wonnum will face a stacked SEC East.
“The biggest thing I’ve learned is ... there’s going to be somebody bigger, faster and stronger than you each game,” Wonnum said. “Your mental toughness is what's going to get you through the game.”
Wonnum attributes his successes in the past two seasons to his work ethic in weight room and on the field. He said he's set his eyes on nothing but keeping his team motivated and focused.
“I have that mindset every practice,” Wonnum said. “I gotta go against this dude. I gotta think of what move I’m about to use.”
As an upperclassman, Wonnum will look to cement hi power as a defensive player. Head coach Will Muschamp said he has no doubt that this 6-foot-5-inch, 258-pound player can shine in the SEC.
“D.J. is really challenging to improve his strength,” Muschamp said. “When you get separation, some of the 300 plus pound guys that have more girth on them, to be able to hold the point of attack, continuing to work on those things, work on space coverage with him — I think one of our best personnel groupings will be regular with Bryson at Sam and D.J. at the Buck position.”
As a permanent captain for South Carolina, Wonnum hopes to increase communication and lead his team to have the same end goal: improving as a unit.
Wonnum said he has worked on his physicality in the off-season, which has ultimately contributed to his growth as a player.
“We all hold each other accountable just the same amount, especially vocally,” Wonnum said. “We are working on vocally but also work ethic wise. We are trying to get those guys better and it’s going pretty good so far.”
With opening day around the corner, Wonnum believes he is beyond ready to show his improved technique and quickness on defense from the year's first game at Williams-Brice Stadium.