Aug. 24, 2016
Gamecocksonline.com will take a position-by-position look at the South Carolina football roster leading up to the September 1 season opener at Vanderbilt. Today we will focus on the Buck/Sam positions.
Lettermen Returning: Bryson Allen-Williams, Darius English, Boosie Whitlow.
Squadmen Returning: Daniel Fennell.
Roster Newcomers: D.J. Wonnum.
Mike Peterson, who brings 14 years of NFL experience to the table, is in his first season as an assistant coach and has been charged with mentoring the hybrid Buck/Sam defensive end/outside linebacker position.
Coach Peterson believes his NFL background catches his players’ attention. “I think it’s a natural thing,” said the first-year coach. “A lot of these kids grew up watching me play on Sunday. Maybe they listen to me a different way. I have to use that in the right way and show them the way. Show them how it’s done. Show them there are things you do — how to take care of your body, how to watch tape, things to do away from the game. I think I get their ear a little different than a lot of guys, but it comes with the territory.”
Coach Peterson says his coaching style is pretty straight-forward. “I shoot them straight. I don’t sugarcoat it with the guys,” he said. “I’m hard on them at times. I love them up when it’s time to love them up. I kind of use what I would have wanted when I was a player, the type of coach I would have wanted coaching me when I was a player. I try to translate that now into coaching.”
Peterson knows what kind of player he is looking for to fill this key role in head coach Will Muschamp’s defensive scheme.
“First of all, you’ve got to be a tough kid. Super tough,” noted Coach Peterson. “You’ve got to have thick skin because I’m going to coach them really tough and get on them really hard. A tough kid, a kid who can do a lot of things — play the run, play the pass, be physical, do a lot of things for us,” he continued. “And there’s a lot of things expected from the position. Right now, we’re trying to get that combination of guys we’re going to use there. We’re still in the evaluation process.”
Coach Peterson has been working primarily with five players throughout fall camp. Junior Bryson Allen-Williams, a six-foot, 230-pounder from Ellenwood, Ga., has had a very good camp and the coaches feel he can have a breakout season in 2016. Allen-Williams has also emerged as a team leader and could turn in an all-conference-type season.
Darius English, a 6-6, 245-pound senior from Powder Springs, Ga., has shown an ability to get to the quarterback, as he led the team with 4.5 sacks as a reserve defensive end last season. “He’s been here awhile, so he’s familiar with college football and the things you need to do as far as off the field and getting your body ready to play,” said Coach Peterson. “He has the size — a very long guy.”
Boosie Whitlow, a 6-3, 240-pound sophomore from Opelika, Ala., also showed flashes of owning excellent pass rush skills in his limited opportunities a year ago. “He just needs to keep coming along and buying in to what we’re doing,” said Coach Peterson. “We preach effort, toughness and discipline here a lot. The more he buys in to that, the more you’re going to see of his production on the field.”
Redshirt freshman Daniel Fennell, a 6-3, 235-pounder from Loganville, Ga. is getting used to playing with his hand on the ground for the first time in his career and has made definite strides, so much so that he could see regular work this fall.
Newcomer D.J. Wonnum, a 6-4, 240-pounder from Stone Mountain, Ga., has really impressed the coaches since his arrival on campus. “D.J. Wonnum, for a true freshman, has the mind of a senior,” said defensive line coach Lance Thompson. “He sees the game, he’s natural, he’s reactive. We’re all very encouraged and very happy with D.J. Wonnum. He has all the right intangibles. He’s really performed at a high level.”