Sept. 29, 2016
by Koby Padgett
Many things that Bryson Allen-Williams has have not come easy. But the six-foot-tall, 230-pound linebacker is quite all right with that.
The son of an NFL player, Allen-Williams was highly recruited out of Cedar Grove High School in the greater Atlanta area. But the linebacker found things a little tougher at the collegiate level. He played in 12 games in each of his first years, drawing three starts combined while showing hints of the talent he flashed during his time as a defensive end in the prep ranks.
"It's a humbling experience," said Allen-Williams. "I learned a lot in my first two years, (but I wasn't) the guy I wanted to be or what I was expected to be coming in. I made a couple of plays, played when the team needed me."
In those first two years, he tallied 50 tackles, six coming from loss. Playing both defensive end and linebacker during that time, Allen-Williams never lost his drive or enthusiasm. In fact, he garnered the defense's Spring Everyday Attitude Award at the 2015 Garnet and Black spring game.
But a clean slate came for all the Gamecocks when Will Muschamp was announced as the new head coach in December. For some, Muschamp was unknown, someone they'd seen but not met. Not so for Allen-Williams. Muschamp recruited Allen-Williams while Muschamp was at Florida, offering Allen-Williams a scholarship during his junior year at Cedar Grove. But South Carolina's staff won him over during the process, bringing the standout to Columbia. Muschamp didn't miss out on a commitment to Allen-Williams' younger brother, Antwuan Jackson Jr. Jackson committed to Muschamp and Auburn during Muschamp's time as the Tigers' defensive coordinator and signed with the Tigers last spring.
"Coach Muschamp has been involved with my family since my junior year of high school," recalled Allen-Williams. " (Muschamp) told my mom on my brother's recruiting visits that I'm a guy that he missed out on."
Now Muschamp and his defensive staff are taking advantage of Allen-Williams' immense talent and skills developed during his first two years at South Carolina. Moved around during those two seasons, Allen-Williams now finds himself moving, with a purpose, this fall.
"The first two years, playing defensive end," Allen-Williams said, "getting that experience of playing on the ball, then last year, getting the experience to play off the ball, it's making me a multi-tool player. Coach Muschamp always tells us, the more you can do, the more you'll be able to play.
"(This staff is) trying to make me one of the marquee players in the country this year. They tell me I have the ability but that I have to continue to work, be more consistent."
The relationship Allen-Williams and Muschamp have shows off the new boss' drive and directive for his pupils.
"He's very demanding with me," Allen-Williams remarked. "If I make a mistake, he's probably harder on me than a lot of other players because he sees a lot in me. He's challenging me every day, but he does let me know that I have the potential to do the things that we need to do to win this year.
"When you have a coach that believes in you and has that much confidence in you, it makes you want to take your game a step higher."
Thus far, Allen-Williams has started two games and is tied for the team lead with two tackles for loss. In last week's contest at Mississippi State, the junior made seven tackles, including the two stops behind the line.
As for Allen-Williams' attitude, one word that is constant: thankful. He's thankful for those first two years and coming to South Carolina in the first place, but he's also thankful for the chance to work with Muschamp now.
"I'm glad. I never regret anything. I believe everything happens for a reason."
That thankfulness comes from his upbringing. Living in a tight-knit extended family, Allen-Williams had a lot of positive influences in his life. His grandfather, a former military officer, "taught me about being a man, about right and wrong things on and off the field," said Allen-Williams. And he's very close with his mother.
"My mom is like my best friend," gushed Allen-Williams. "I'm very thankful that I have a mother who is so supportive and so involved. Since I was young, she had me involved in sports, and she'd be the first one on the sideline coaching me up, letting me know what I did wrong.
"I have a very strong support system, and I'm thankful for that."
Thankful for the chance to learn and grow, Allen-Williams gets to help usher in a new era of Gamecock Football. As part of the veteran group, Allen-Williams and the rest of the defense will get to set the tenor of Muschamp's calling card for his teams, that strong defense.
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