Forty seconds into a 17-minute chat with reporters on Tuesday, Travaris Robinson revealed the numbers he expects his unit to meet this season.
“We want to keep opponents under 17 points if we can,” the South Carolina defensive coordinator said. “Per pass attempt, 5.5 [yards] and per run attempt, somewhere lower than that, 2.5 or 2.8.
“… But big picture, [it’s about] doing your job. That’s the most important thing, as a unit. Stay in your gap. Know your responsibility and do that.”
As a whole, Robinson said he wants his defense to play with a “blue-collar mentality” and create more turnovers. South Carolina ranked 10th in team defense (12th in rush, 12th in pass) in the SEC last season and ranked eighth in turnovers per game, with 1.4.
Though it loses stalwarts Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Wonnum and T.J. Brunson, Robinson hopes linebacker Ernest Jones, cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu and defensive lineman Keir Thomas emerge as leaders.
“I want our guys to be physical. I want our guys to be able to stop the run first and force [offenses] to be one dimensional and throw the football,” he said. “And we need to do a better job with turnovers. You look at our first couple of years, it was 28, 27. And then you look at the drop off to the next two years and it was 17, 16, something like that.
“You’re talking about 10 turnovers. That’s 10 extra possessions for our offense. That’s a big emphasis right now. We need to get the football better. We’ve been getting it good and we’ve got to continue to do that.”
Here’s more of what Robinson had to say:
On new offensive coordinator Mike Bobo: “He’s really good. He does a really good job. They give you multiple looks, different personnel groupings, different tempos. It’s been very exciting coaching against him. He does some really nice things.”
On the addition of defensive line coach Tracy Rocker: “I think he’s doing a great job with those guys. He’s tough on them, but it’s love, and they know that and they’re responding in the right way.”
On defensive linemen Zacch Pickens, Rick Sandidge and Keir Thomas: “Zacch and Rick are doing well and they understand, for us to do what we need to do in this conference, they have to play well up front. And obviously with the addition of Keir coming back, that really helps us. That gives us a guy who played multiple spots on the d-line and a guy that has leadership ability. And he’s doing a really good job of doing that.
On Pickens: “We need him to play inside. We need him to be really good inside. You know, Zacch’s over 300 pounds now. So he’s going to play inside for us. He’ll play three-technique, he’ll play some shade, he’ll play some different things on the front. He’s able to do that because he’s a very physical and athletic guy. He’s got to continue to learn the scheme and continue to learn how we want to play.”
On Javon Kinlaw influencing and helping Pickens: “As a defense, we’ve been showing a lot of clips of Javon playing. The good thing is, when you come in and you’ve got good players in front of you, you know what it’s supposed to look like. A lot of times when you’re a young player, you don’t know what it looks like. You don’t know what good is. [Zacch] was able to see good firsthand and see how [Javon] practiced, how he worked, how he carried himself inside and outside the building. [Javon] set a positive example for him and we’re excited about it and I believe Zacch has seen the way. Now it’s up to him to do it.”
On Jaycee Horn’s zero career interceptions: “It’s frustrating to him. Like I tell him all the time, if you just look at the tape and you look at the targets, when people are throwing the football toward him, there’s not a lot of catches on him. He’s got to continue to do that. His chances will come. You know, he had opportunities this season and he didn’t make them. The easy ones, he’s got to make. He’ll get the stats and the numbers he’s looking for. Yes, he’s a good football player. He plays the right way. We want more guys like him on our football team. … His time is coming.”
On DB Israel Mukuamu: “It’s always an advantage to be big and tall. With him, he has instincts and, more than anything else with his size and everything else, he has great instincts. He’s a ballhawk and he can find the football. He’ll be able to affect more plays if he’s playing at safety, but he plays corner. He plays corner well. … It’s crazy, when you look at his point of attack tapes from this season, you know, the plays that he gave up, it started on the line of scrimmage. That’s one of the things he’s done a good job of working on.”
On Buck linebacker Jordan Burch: “I will say this: He’s a talented young man. Don’t know exactly where he fits. He’ll play our Buck position for us, but he has tremendous pass rush. He can drop when we need him to drop. And we need someone that can get to the quarterback. And we’re going to put it on him to do it. But excited about him and can’t wait until he gets here.”
On DB Jaylin Dickerson: “He fits well. You know, Jaylin is a guy who has been really, really good in the spring. And in fall he’s been an injury prone guy. We haven’t really had him much. So we’re excited to have him back on the field. He’s a physical dude. He knows what to do. He’s got to continue to just get the game reps. … Jaylin is a huge addition. We needed him last year, but I’, thankful he’s here now.”
On freshman DB Dominick Hill: “Very impressed with Dominick. Dominick, I thought he would be a corner. We moved him to safety and he’s been doing really good with it. He has to gain weight, obviously. He’s a little guy, but he’s smart and very instinctive. He’s got a chance to be a good football player at some point. Excited about his progress. He’s coming in, he’s meeting extra, all the stuff that it takes to be a good player.”
On freshman DB O’Donnell Fortune: “He started off slow, but the last couple of days he’s been a lot better and we’re playing him outside at corner. He has some good guys in front of him to see how they do things and how they go about their business, and he’s doing a good job of following those guys.”
On redshirt freshman DB Cam Smith: “Cam, he’s got a couple of things he’s working on with his hands and stuff like that. But he’s doing a good job. He’s a very quick and fast guy. He gained some weight during the offseason. So we’re excited about that.”
On sophomore DB John Dixon: “John is a really good player. We’re playing him inside at nickel some. We’re playing him outside at corner. We’ve just got to kind of figure out exactly where he’s going to play.”