COLUMBIA — It was supposed to be so much better this year.
“He just wants another opportunity, wants a better situation,” South Carolina coach Will Muschamp said Tuesday, confirming Jamyest Williams’ transfer. “We support him 100 percent, loved coaching Jam, and we’re moving forward.”
The Gamecocks’ lack of productivity in the secondary last season was blamed on injuries. USC lost 23 games’ worth of presence in just the defensive backfield, and three of the most consistent players (Steven Montac, Keisean Nixon and Rashad Fenton) were seniors.
It stood to be OK this season since some of the injured players would combine with a young but dynamic crew of playmakers. It was good to have Jaycee Horn, Israel Mukuamu and R.J. Roderick be the leaders despite being sophomores, since it signaled a stable position with an upward trajectory.
But Jaylin Dickerson was lost before the season to injury, his second season-ender in three years. Walk-on Kevin Pickens left the team. Williams lost his starting role for the Missouri game but played, and as the “old man” of the secondary was going to keep playing.
The Gamecocks are back in a familiar spot. They’re not getting the production they need and they don’t have the bodies to go get it.
“One man down, next man up,” Horn said. “That’s the mentality we got.”
USC has seven defensive backs that have logged significant snaps. An eighth and ninth, Shilo Sanders and A.J. Turner, have played almost exclusively on special teams.
Otherwise, they have converted receiver Darius Rush, Southern Cal transfer Jamel Cook, who has yet to make any significant impact; and walk-ons Jordan Villafane and Dawson Hoffman. USC isn’t above playing walk-ons if it will help them (Jason Senn was basically the starter against Chattanooga last year) but would prefer not to have to turn to them.
The Gamecocks may not have much of a choice if they lose any more defensive backs. Williams’ defection also added another dubious asterisk to Muschamp’s first full recruiting class at USC.
Six defensive backs were in that 2017 class. One remains, and he (Dickerson) has played two games in three years due to injuries.
Kaleb Chalmers played two games and transferred. Zay Brown played no games in two years and transferred. Nixon was the highlight, getting into 24 games and now playing for the Oakland Raiders.
Tavyn Jackson was medically disqualified due to a sickle cell trait and Williams had both of his USC seasons cut short due to shoulder surgery before he transferred.
Muschamp likes the talent back there, but it’s become a constant carousel. Last year, it was forced due to injury. This year, it’s because they thought they had the right players in the right spots before the season began and have been proven wrong.
“Cam Smith’s emergence has come on, A.J. has gotten healthy, so he’s another guy that will be back in the fold at the corner position,” Muschamp said. “But it’s always about putting the best four, best five, best six guys out there. I think Jaycee and Israel can play better than they’ve played in the first four ballgames.”
Gamecocks finalize 2023 schedule
USC has added Liberty and Furman to its 2023 football schedule. The Flames and Paladins join North Carolina and Clemson as non-conference opponents.
Both are home games, along with Clemson, while North Carolina will be in Charlotte. USC has its 2020 and 2022 schedules done as well but is still looking for a team to fill one empty slot on its 2021 slate.
The Gamecocks are at East Carolina and host Troy and Clemson that season.