Fast and violent. They’re good traits in a middle linebacker, and for South Carolina coach Will Muschamp, they’re exactly what he sees in sophomore T.J. Brunson.
Muschamp praised the young linebacker, who made a team-high 16 tackles in the season opener, during his weekly news conference before the Gamecocks’ matchup with Missouri.
The key to Brunson’s success, Muschamp said, is simple: “He plays fast and he plays a very violent game. I’m glad he’s our ‘Mike’ (middle linebacker).”
Muschamp said Brunson struggled at times earlier in his career with confidence because of his perfectionist approach. It’s different now, and it shows.
“Now, he’s a guy that’s got a lot more confidence in himself,” Muschamp said. “He has a lot more belief in himself.”
Brunson ranged all across the field in the season-opening victory over NC State, finishing with 16 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.
That said, Muschamp is concerned about his secondary’s ability to cover Missouri’s passing game. Tigers quarterback Drew Lock is coming off a school-record performance in which he threw for 521 yards and seven touchdowns in a 72-43 win over FCS opponent Missouri State.
“They’ll throw the vertical ball as well as anybody in the country,” Muschamp said.
One area that undeniably needs help is the running game. South Carolina carried 21 times for only 31 yards against the Wolfpack, an average of 1.5 yards per carry. Rico Dowdle led the unit with only 27 yards.
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The problem, Muschamp felt, wasn’t that runners were being regularly hit behind the line for losses. They just weren’t getting the room to make serious progress against the Wolfpack’s highly regarded defensive front.
“We only gave up three negative runs, so it wasn’t that there were a lot of negative plays in the run game,” Muschamp said. “Those were the only three. But we certainly need to be more productive in the run game. There’s no question.”
The Gamecocks next take a trip to Missouri, followed by a home game against Kentucky as the team opens the year with two conference games in its first three.
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