COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Priority one, stop the run—a point of emphasis at Gamecock spring practice centers around controlling the opponent’s ground game.
Gamecock defensive line coach Jimmy Lindsey points out it’s a must to find success.
“If we don’t stop the run, we don’t have a chance to be successful,” Lindsey said.
The foundation to thrive in the trenches begins with belief. Lindsey sees the unit building continuity, beginning with outstanding senior leadership from defensive tackle Jabari Ellis.
“From four days [of spring practice] and what we were able to build in the offseason, Jabari Ellis has done a good job of leading the group so far,” Lindsey added. “The thing that’s been pleasant to see is all those guys are bringing along each other at the same time. We’re going to need everybody in the room. If we can build it from the bottom up, we have a chance to be successful.”
Sophomore defensive tackle Tonka Hemingway shows excellent potential in the interior. Once an edge rusher, Tonka moves to tackle, and Lindsey believes his future is a bright one from that position.
“Tonka has a chance to be a really good player,” Lindsey said. “He’s been a surprise as far as how he’s been able to hold up inside. When guys transition from being an edge defender to an inside player, it’s a different world. The blocks inside happen a little faster than they do on the edge. I’m very pleased where he’s at through four practices.”
Running mate in the trenches, junior tackle Zacch Pickens, has also made a good impression early on during spring practice.
“Zacch’s really talented,” Lindsey said. “The thing I challenged him with, from going back and watching film from last year, is to improve his fundamentals. Once he improves the fundamentals of defensive line play, he has a chance to be a really good player for us. He has all the size, speed, and all the things you look for in a defensive tackle.
The next focus from the trenches centers around the health of defensive lineman Rick Sandidge. The senior Gamecock was in a motor vehicle accident over the weekend.
Sandidge posted pictures on Twitter Saturday of the accident. He thanked the man above for watching over him.
Lindsey said they hope to get Sandidge back in the fold over the next couple of days.
On the offensive side, the line is a “work in progress,” according to offensive line coach Greg Adkins. His unit has had a lot to absorb information wise through four practices.
Carolina returns a mixture of experience and youth to that position group. And right now, they’re trying to gauge which players can best learn and retain information while executing at a high level.
Adkins adds it’s the beauty of spring practice. The first under head coach Shane Beamer. The Gamecocks are bringing a positive attitude to the field, trying to establish a mindset and culture of accountability.
If you’re looking for leadership on the line right now, it’s also a work in progress.
“A lot of guys are trying to lead,” Adkins said. “That’s the culture we’re trying to build, a culture of accountability. It’s OK for your teammate to call you out. That’s what we’re trying to create. What we end up ultimately needing are guys that are trying to lead, making sure they’re performing at the highest level also.”
Gamecocks will hold practice No. 5 of spring camp on Wednesday.