VIDEOS INCLUDED: Wednesday Gamecocks practice observations & more
August 14, 2019
Mike Peterson Media Availability — 8/14/19
Eldridge Thompson Media Availability — 8/14/19
Damani Staley Media Availability — 8/14/19
Jamyest Williams Media Availability — 8/14/19
Gamecocks came out at practice wearing black helmets for its 12th practice of the preseason.
Some observations from Wednesday practice:
▪ Freshman linebacker Jahmar Brown continues to be one of the back end players on field goal block. As running back/corner A.J. Turner is everywhere, he was one of the edge guys coming after field goals.
▪ There were several scouts from the Los Angeles Chargers in the building, including director of scouting Kevin Kelly.
▪ QBs were working with longer throws toward targets with nets. It seemed everyone had a little trouble (they were hard throws), but Dakereon Joyner hit a couple nice ones.
▪ During part of the turnover drills, it was interesting watching defensive players work on ball security for after they scooped up the ball.
▪ Redshirt freshman wide receiver Darius Rush was playing defensive back, lining up with a set of corners in warmups. He was with the defensive back group for several periods in practice. Rush played both ways at his small S.C. high school CE Murray, and at 6-foot-2 had at times been discussed as a possibility at defensive back.
▪ We had the first appearance of a yellow non-contact jersey for a non-QB of the camp. Receiver Randrecous Davis was wearing one.
▪ His receiver spot was a tad thinner because of one new player joining the injured group. Newcomer Tyquan Johnson had long been a presance there, but he was joined by senior Chavis Dawkins. Other players in the injured group included freshman corner John Dixon, defensive end Kier Thomas and Buck defensive end Brad Johnson, a new addition.
▪ Tailback Rico Dowdle was not spotted practicing. Other veterans not spotted were defensive end Kingsley Enagbare, offensive lineman Donell Stanley or tight end Kiel Pollard.
▪ In the opening period, Parker White was 3/5 on field goals, including a bad miss on his longest kick of the day from what appeared to be 40+ yards.
Note of interest - South Carolina freshman Rodricus Fitten:
The freshman pass rusher came to Columbia a little on the small end, 235 pounds and in the range of the team’s strongside linebacker more than a fully developed Buck defensive end. That’s a little different now. “Hot Rod will be to 245 to 250,” outside linebacker coach Mike Peterson said. “Looking good man. He’s ripped up.” The Atlanta, Georgia product was a top-500 recruit and picked USC from a list of offers that included Florida, North Carolina and Missouri. He put up solid stats for his high school team, rolling up 45 tackles, eight for loss and four sacks.
Peterson talks Fitten and what he likes.
“The thing I like about him is, I’ve seen it in recruiting, he plays with a lot of energy,” Peterson said. “The thing now is is trying to you know, shorten the learning curve for him and get him on our pages for the terminology and in the way we do things, but the effort is one thing that I really like about him. I loved it in recruitment and he’s showing out there now.” That motor is something that gives a player a bedrock. If they have talent and play with motor, it’s a good spot for things to eventually come together. But South Carolina’s Buck spot is a bear from a learning perspective. Players there have to rush the passer, move all over the formation and often have coverage responsibilities, sometimes as far out as a tight end split out in the slot.
He’s at a position where the team has a few veteran pieces. D.J. Wonnum is back off injury and an anchor of the defense, while Brad Johnson (hurt right now) has been a rotation player two years in a row. Daniel Fennell is also a versatile veteran presence in a couple different spots. And early on, Fitten is still working through the learning side of it. One teammate compared his motor to Bryson Allen-Williams, a strongside linebacker who stepped in as a Buck last season when injuries struck. “That’s a great one to compare it to,” Peterson said. “He’s probably running the wrong way, but right now, that’s my job. That’s why I’m here to kind of get him running in the right direction, but you know, give me a guy that plays with a motor over talented guy any day.”
Note of interest - South Carolina senior pass rusher D.J. Wonnum
Gamecocks coach Mike Peterson said with a smile Wednesday when informed that USC defensive line coach John Scott Jr. said Wonnum had a better body than some pro players he coached on the New York Jets. Something he knew all along. There’s still at least a full season left before Wonnum will turn to the NFL draft, and he could potentially stay another year if granted a medical redshirt. But with the possibility of bigger and better things ahead, it’s understandable that the topic sometimes comes up in personal
“Me and him, we talk about it when we get one on one and sit to the side,” Peterson said. “But right now, we got some ball games to play, we got some quarterbacks to get after. So if you ask him, that’s what he will be focused on. But the question, can he play an NFL? Without a doubt.” Maintaining focus on one last season of college football isn’t always easy though, Peterson noted.
“It’s actually hard, you know, because it’s right there. You know, you can use him and some of the other seniors that’s there — it’s just our job to remind them you know, the NFL and what’s next is gonna take care of itself,” Peterson said. “All you can control right now is what you do and feel.”
He’ll need the now production now to impress NFL scouts. He is wrking on his skills. “Stopping the run and making the quarterback uncomfortable are the biggest things for us trenches-wise this year,” Wonnum said. And as the elder statesman and most productive player at the BUCK position, Wonnum can also provide the Gamecocks vital leadership — he was elected a team captain as a sophomore, and his work ethic remains the model Peterson wants all of his players to follow. “You know, he’s one of those guys, you love coaching good players. And I enjoy coming to work coaching a guy like that. He does everything right And the good thing about it, the younger guys get a chance to see, you know, how you prepare before practice, how you get out there early, how you prepare before game, so he’s a valuable tool in my room, not only on the field, but just the lessons of how to approach the game,” Peterson said.