South Carolina has gone through just four of its 23 fall practices, yet John Scott Jr. already has a raspy, hoarse voice.
For the Gamecock first-year defensive line coach, it’s the wear and tear that comes with coaching one of the team’s deepest and most talented positions.
“We have five or six guys we feel are going to be able to help us in a game,” Scott Jr. said Monday. “That’s so important because the more guys you can play, the harder they can go. And the more guys you can roll in at an offensive line, it can be a big-time advantage.”
Scott Jr., a Greer, S.C. native, spent the past two seasons working with defensive tackles at Arkansas. Before that he was a defensive quality control coach and an assistant defensive line coach with the New York Jets.
Here are six takeaways from what Scott Jr. told reporters on Monday:
1) D.J. Wonnum has better traits than some New York Jets he worked with
A two-time SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week and one of just three sophomores in South Carolina history to be named a permanent team captain, Wonnum appeared in just five games last season (all starts) because of a right ankle injury.
But the senior is back and at full-strength.
“D.J. Wonnum is a very good player, he’s a special guy. He can set the edge for us and he can rush the passer,” Scott Jr. said. “I was with the Jets for two years, and when I look at his body type, I look at his athleticism, he was better than some of the guys I felt like we had up there. I think he has a lot of potential and he could be special for us.”
2) Javon Kinlaw has the body coaches dream of coaching
Javon Kinlaw, the Gamecocks’ premier interior talent, missed spring practice with a hip injury but is fully healthy for fall camp.
“It makes you smile as a coach, a guy that big,” Scott Jr. said. “Javon is physical and he is a tough-minded guy. I like the way he practices. He practices hard. He came into camp in shape, so he is moving around well. It’s a pleasure when you have a guy who can be disruptive like that and play the way you want him to play.
“… There are not many 6-6, 300-plus pound guys that have his athleticism. He’s really strong and he’s got something only God can give you, extremely long arms so he can separate off blockers. If you had to draw up the body type for that league, that’s the body type. With my time with the Jets we had Leonard Williams, 6-6, 310-pound guy with that kind of athleticism.”
3) Kobe Smith takes extremely detailed notes
Scott Jr. mentioned Kobe Smith, a senior, along with Kinlaw, as the unit’s leaders. The 6-2, 300-pounder played in all 13 games last season (six starts) and made 39 tackles.
“We are four days in and we’ve said something about him every day, as a defensive staff, for doing things the right way,” Scott Jr. said. “Playing blocks the right way, taking on a double team. That’s one of the most unselfish plays that helps your football team.
“… I went and looked at his notebook yesterday and he’s one of the most descriptive guys I’ve seen drawing it up, what you say word for word. I took it and showed it to the younger guys. ‘Take a look at this, this is how you take notes.’ He may not be one of the most vocal guys, but he does a nice job of leading by example, leading by how he practices.”
Defensive tackle Zacch Pickens has been one of the most talked about recruits in the history of South Carolina football. The five-star prospect from Anderson, S.C. has come along well.
“He’s doing a really good job just mentally compared to where he was in the spring,” Scott Jr said. “Coming into fall camp, mentally, he is doing a really nice job and he’s playing faster. ... Once you know your assignment, you can play fast and he’s playing a lot faster. We are still working on his technique, as we are with all of them, but that will continue to come the more reps you get. I’ve been very pleased so far with where he is mentally compared to where he was in the spring.
“… He’s got really, really good size and strength for a freshman coming in. He’s got like a junior body right now as a freshman, so that certainly helps. … I think he’s got a chance to really help us this year. We have to keep coming on.”
5) Rick Sandidge is ready to take the next step
Scott Jr. believes Rick Sandidge can improve on the 19 tackles and half-sack he had last season as a freshman.
“We are all anticipating him being a great factor in what we do,” the coach said. “He’s got that experience. Rick is a strong, physical kid and we are going to need him. We are going to need Rick, so we have high expectations for Rick and that whole group.”
6) Depth, depth and depth
Scott Jr. seems impressed with his unit’s depth, particularly Davontae Davis, Jabari Ellis and Joseph Anderson.
“Davontae is a young man that can be a physical guy. He’s strong in his lower body. He’s one of those guys that’s just got to continue to learn the game a little bit and knock a little bit of the rust off. And he’s doing that. I think once he gets it more and continues to get it mentally and works on the technique. But he’s got some core strength there too.
“Jabari is going to be a guy that can help us, inside and out. He’s played inside and out for us, and we’ve been pleased at how he made a jump in the spring. He’s continuing on that path in the fall. He’s doing a nice job.
“Joe is coming along. He had a good summer. His body is starting to fill out, physically. He’s doing a nice job. I think we’ve seen him grow mentally and he’s grown physically. He’s starting to get it. He’s starting to come along for us.”