Muschamp, Gamecocks look for improved defense
Bentley chuckled and shook his head when asked about facing coordinator Travaris Robinson’s defense this summer in preseason camp.
“It’s fun because it makes you better,” Bentley said Tuesday. “But some days they get you and T-Rob (Robinson) lets you know about it. That’s not fun.”
Robinson and the Gamecocks hope have something to say against South Carolina opponents this year, starting Saturday at home against Coastal Carolina.
South Carolina had to rush too many young, untested players like linebacker T.J. Brunson into front-line duty when coach Will Muschamp arrived . About all Muschamp and his staff could do was teach, correct mistakes and recruit more talent to make their stand.
That could be this year, according to Bentley.
“They haven’t let up on us all camp,” Bentley said.
South Carolina finished middle of the pack in SEC defense last season — sixth against the rush, 10th against the pass and seventh overall at 367 yards a game.
It was an improvement in 2016 for the defensive-minded Muschamp , but not at all close to his expectations.
“We are certainly better,” Muschamp said. “I don’t know that we’ll ever be where we want to be. Never be satisfied with where you are.”
One big area of focus for Robinson and Muschamp is a perked-up pass rush. South Carolina was 11th in sacks recorded with 26 a year ago. The Gamecocks figure to get help from the return of hybrid linebacker-lineman Bryson Allen-Williams, who missed all but three games after needing shoulder surgery. Allen-Williams, a senior, said he feels healthier than before the injury and has an improved mindset about finishing his career off strongly.
“We have a standard and our first game Saturday is going to be our showcase to the world,” he said.
Muschamp said the loss of Allen-Williams took out their primary speed rusher out of the rotation.
“That really hurt us last year, losing his edge presence because he is a guy that can win with speed on the edge, and we didn’t really possess that as much,” he said.
D.J. Wonnum, a 6-foot-5 junior, led the Gamecocks with six sacks a year ago. He is more dependent on his strength than speed.
Kinlaw’s relentless style has giving teammate, guard Zack Bailey, fits all throughout camp. “Javon Kinlaw’s determined he’s going to sack Jake Bentley,” Bailey joked. “It’s time to hit somebody else.”
The 6-1 Horn was ranked among the top 20 cornerbacks in the country by Rivals.com. He’s slotted as a starting nickel back and backup cornerback.
Ibe came over from Rice and Harvey from Texas A&M as graduate transfers. Ibe started 26 games for Rice while Harvey started 12 games for the Aggies in 2016 before being redshirted last season.
Muschamp is awaiting NCAA clearance on two other transfers in former Clemson lineman Josh Belk and ex-Southern Cal defensive back Jamel Cook. South Carolina has submitted requests for waivers so the two could play immediately instead of sitting out a year per NCAA guidelines.
Brunson, the junior linebacker South Carolina’s top returning tackler from last year, has liked what he’s seen the past month.
He believes the team’s experience and depth on defense have improved to take another jump forward in the SEC.
“We’re ready to show what we’ve got,” he said.