Through 10 practices and its first spring scrimmage, the South Carolina football team is noticing improvement in its speed, technique and play as a group as it continues to build off a strong end to the 2021 season.
Members or the Gamecock defensive unit spoke to the media Wednesday, coinciding with the players’ off day from practice. The defense was crucial in South Carolina’s bowl win, holding rivals North Carolina to one successful third down conversion in 10 tries during the Duke's Mayo Bowl last year.
Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Alex Huntley is one of many looking to build off the Duke's Mayo Bowl showing where he made some important plays, including two solo tackles.
"I would definitely try and build off of that," Huntley said. "Those plays, they were good plays, but I think I have a lot more in me — well, I know I do, and so I just gotta keep improving so I can show everybody else that as well."
Huntley played in all 13 games and was named to the Freshman All-SEC team for the 2021 season. After losing players such as defensive tackle Jabari Ellis, Huntley said he planned on stepping into whatever role he is needed.
"If you just focus on whatever you gotta do to help win the game, doing that, then that really puts you in a great position," Huntley said.
Sixth-year linebacker Sherrod Greene had his last two seasons cut short due to injury and is looking to stay healthy in 2022. Greene is yet to be cleared for full contact practice but continues to run through drills to remain comfortable as he awaits his full return.
"(I'm) a little too excited honestly," Greene said. "You know, sitting back on the sideline, watching the team practice, just wish I could be in there and contribute to the team."
While on the sideline at practices, Greene said "pretty much everyone on defense" stood out to him. He mentioned junior linebacker Mohamed Kaba and redshirt sophomore linebacker Debo Williams by name and said he knows there are plenty of things to work on to reach the team's goal.
"Pretty much going to improve on anything," Greene said. "Getting turnovers, stopping the run, stopping the pass. We have a very high standard for ourselves and I feel like that's what makes a defense a championship defense."
South Carolina's defense improved from 109th in total efficiency to 34th between the 2020 and 2021 season during defensive coordinator Clayton White's first season.
Meanwhile, a newcomer in graduate transfer — defensive back Devonni Reed, a four-year starter at Central Michigan — is expected to make an impact this season as he adjusts to a new system.
"I'm feeling very comfortable getting reps cause I'm a good rep guy," Reed said. "I like to get reps and stuff when I'm learning instead of drawing on the board. So Coach Gray and Donnie and all the GAs, they do a good job of allowing me to get reps and visual reps of everything that allows me to actually feel comfortable back there and make the right calls."
Reed earned second and third-team All-MAC honors in each of the previous two seasons and wants to become a team leader moving forward.
"I just want to improve on my leadership as well, being a bigger guy in the room, being more vocal, helping guys pull along," Reed said. "Just embracing my role on this team as well, and also just becoming more comfortable and continuing to grow."
With high expectations heading into the 2022 season, the Gamecocks will continue to work hard during the next three weekly practices and upcoming scrimmage. The team is just 10 days away from the Garnet and Black spring game.