Looking at safeties and nickelbacks for the fall
July 05, 2019, | GCF Staff Report
Look at where things stand at each position now that fall practice weeks away.
Safeties and nickelbacks:
• No position on the South Carolina roster dealt with more injuries last season than the safeties. Javon Charleston, J.T. Ibe, Tavyn Jackson, Jamyest Williams and Jaylin Dickerson all missed games, as did cornerback Jaycee Horn, who started at the position against Chattanooga. Senior Steven Montac and freshman R.J. Roderick were also banged up and playing through pain at times. The staff will clearly hope for better luck there in 2019.
• After getting thrown into the fire as a freshman, Roderick returns as a sure starter this season, though where exactly he'll start remains a mystery.
A proven heavy-hitter, Roderick worked this spring with the first team at both safety and the nickelback position.
• Ibe, a former graduate transfer from Rice, saw his first season in Columbia cut to just four games due to a knee injury, but was granted an additional year by the NCAA and will be a key contributor as either a starting safety or one of the first players off the bench at the position.
Ibe had a strong spring, taking reps with the first team, and has worked to perfect his knowledge of the scheme and improve his coverage ability.
• Williams is in a similar spot to Ibe. He'll likely be a starter or the first guy off the bench at safety as he returns from a shoulder injury that cut short his season for the second straight year.
What Williams lacks in size he makes up for in toughness and a knack for being around the football.
• The wildcards at safety are redshirt junior Jamel Cook and redshirt sophomore Jaylin Dickerson.
At 6-foot-4, 215-pounds, Cook looks the part of an SEC safety. He flashed in the spring game with an interception and several big hits, but Will Muschamp quickly downplayed his day, saying that the transfer from Southern Cal had been inconsistent with assignments and effort this spring. Still, if he can put it together, the talent is there.
Effort has never been an issue with Dickerson, but injuries have as he's been nagged by his shoulder since arriving in Columbia. But make no mistake, the staff has always been high on the North Carolina native's upside if can stay healthy for an extended period of time.
• What happens at the nickelback position, which is only on the field when Carolina employs a formation with five defensive backs or more, will likely have a ripple effect on the other positions in the secondary.
With almost every offense using some form of the spread, the position has become more important than ever in college football in the last decade or so.
As mentioned above, Roderick could man the spot, which would likely mean that Ibe and Williams would start alongside each other at safety, as opposed to fighting it out to start alongside Roderick there. Horn is also a candidate.
But look for true freshman Jammie Robinson to get a long, hard look at the position. He's got the right size, skillset and mindset to play the position since he's a heavy hitter who can also cover. If Robinson can emerge at nickel, it keeps the staff from having to take Roderick away from safety or Horn away from cornerback.