Football

Breaking Down the Defensive Backs
Aug. 31, 2017

In a short amount of time, head coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson have transformed the Gamecock secondary from what was perceived to be a weak link on the squad to an area that is much more formidable. While a couple injuries have depleted the depth of the unit early in fall camp, the front line of defensive backs has some interchangeable parts and plenty of experience that will allow Coach Muschamp and company to mix-and-match enough to keep fresh bodies on the field and remain competitive, barring any further derailments.

Three seniors highlight the defensive backfield and are poised to have their finest season for the Garnet & Black. Cornerback JaMarcus King arrived on campus just a year ago and was almost immediately inserted into the lineup. Now with a year of SEC play under his belt and a year in Jeff Dillman’s weight room, the former junior college standout will have a little more physicality to add to his already developed ball skills that allowed him to intercept three passes a season ago. Heady Chris Lammons is penciled in as a starting safety, but the versatile veteran who has four career interceptions is listed on the second-team at both cornerback and nickel, giving the coaching staff some flexibility. Safety D.J. Smith figures to line up next to Lammons on the final line of defense. Smith, who has played in 37 games over the past three seasons including a dozen starts, led the team in tackles in 2016.

A pair of juniors in Rashad Fenton and Steven Montac gained valuable experience last year and are expected to be solid contributors again this fall. Fenton’s improved play at cornerback has allowed the coaches to move Lammons to safety in an effort to get the best players on the field. Montac was a late arrival into camp last season, but quickly asserted himself into regular duty, making a half-dozen starts. He has been slowed in the early going this year by a stress fracture in his foot, but is making progress and should be nearing full strength. Like Lammons, Montac is a versatile performer who can help out at a number of positions.
 

 

Two transfers are new to the program but could make their presence felt in 2017. Keisean Nixon just arrived a couple of weeks ago from Arizona Western Junior College, but the junior has already worked his way into the two-deep at safety. Kaleb Chalmers is one of the rare athletes who has played at both Clemson and South Carolina. The redshirt sophomore spent last season at Northwest Mississippi CC.

Javon Charleston is one of the feel-good stories in fall camp. The former walk-on wide receiver contributed mostly on special teams a year ago and was converted full-time to safety in the spring. He was rewarded for his hard work, athleticism and ball-hawking ability with a scholarship just prior to the start of fall classes and is listed with the second-team unit entering the season opener.

To help add depth to the unit, sophomore Korey Banks is making the transition from wide receiver to defensive back this fall. He will need some time to adjust to the position, but has potential to help the squad down the road.

A quartet of scholarship freshmen have the coaches excited about the future of the secondary. Jamyest Williams was probably the most highly-regarded member of the 2017 recruiting class and he did not disappoint in fall camp, earning a spot as a probable starter when the Gamecocks are in their nickel package. Jaylin Dickerson figured to be in the mix for a spot on the two-deep entering the fall as well, but an injury to a nerve during spring ball affected the strength in his arm and he was forced to undergo season-ending surgery in August. Like Dickerson, Tavyn Jackson has been slowed by injury, although his is not nearly as serious. However, the hamstring injury will likely keep Jackson sidelined for at least the first couple of weeks of the season. Zay Brown rounds out the quartet of newcomers.

A foursome of walk-ons in senior Demetrius Smalls, junior Scott Grant, sophomore Jaylan Foster and sophomore Jason Senn complete the defensive backfield. Foster is the most intriguing of the four, although is not eligible this year after a standout freshman season at Gardner-Webb where he was named the Big South Conference Freshman of the Year.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (17):

JaMarcus King Sr.

Chris Lammons Sr.

Demetrius Smalls Sr.

D.J. Smith Sr.

Rashad Fenton Jr.

Scott Grant Jr.

Steven Montac Jr.

Keisean Nixon Jr.

Korey Banks So.

Kaleb Chalmers So.

Javon Charleston So.

Jaylan Foster So.

Jason Senn So.

Zay Brown Fr.

Jaylin Dickerson Fr.

Tavyn Jackson Fr.

Jamyest Williams Fr.

 

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