The South Carolina defense comes into this season with wit some large voids to fill as well as lofty expectations.
They saw several members of the defensive line make it to the NFL, but have a number or returning players on the 2021 NFL draft radar.
Wednesday several members of the defense spoke, including sophomore defensive lineman Zaach Pickens, who said as good as last year’s defense was, the best is still yet to come.
“I feel like we can be better than last year,” he said. “Last year was a good year, but I feel like this year, for the d-line, it’s going to be better because everybody’s getting a chance. Everybody’s getting a shot. Just because you’re a freshman doesn’t mean you’re not going to play, or not play as much. Everybody has a role.”
Junior defensive lineman Kingsley “JJ” Enagbare echoed those sentiments and said there is cohesion early on.
“For the first couple days of camp, I feel like all three levels, the defense is looking good,” he said. “The young guys, the veterans and everybody in between are coming together and when we’re on, we’re on.”
Pickens said the addition of defensive line coach Tracy Rocker has helped get the group on one accord.
“He’s been like a father figure to all of us. He doesn’t pick and choose who he wants to get on, he gets on everybody,” he said. “That’s the main thing we pay attention to, he doesn’t just get on the younger guys, he gets on the older guys too and he’s really just a father to us.”
As good as they look, Jabari Ellis said it’s not enough. The redshirt senior defensive lineman, said he likes what they’ve done in practice so far and they have to build on that.
“Of course we’re excited to get out there and show everybody what we’ve got,” he said. “At times, just like JJ said, we look great. But our biggest thing is we’ve got to focus on being more consistent. No down days. We want to stay up every day. So that’s our biggest thing.”
This will help as they answer head coach Will Muschamp’s challenge of forcing more turnovers. Enagbare they’ve have to lock in even more this year.
“There’s really no real trick. Our coach preaches to us we gotta think about it every day and if you think about it, you’re gonna attack it and you’re gonna try and get that ball out everyday . So it’s all about repeating that ‘get the ball, get the ball, get the ball’ and eventually you’re gonna get that ball.”
He added that so far they’ve gaining ground in that area and reiterated that this could be a special.
“I feel like our defense is going to be a force this year, I really feel that.”