Confident Hampton looking to grow in year two

Cornerback Victor Hampton is primed and ready to go for the 2011 season after redshirting during his first year at South Carolina. After encountering several issues in high school, Hampton is continuing to mature while also acquiring the skills that he will use to become a successful defender in the Southeastern Conference.

2010 was not an easy year for Victor Hampton.

The standout player from Darlington, South Carolina, arrived in Columbia as U.S. Army All-American and was rated one of the top overall players in the country as well as one of the top corners in America.

But Hampton quickly discovered that playing time was not guaranteed at a big time SEC program, and he waited his turn last year while earning a redshirt. Now Hampton enters 2011 looking to crack the playing rotation at cornerback as well as on special teams. And he is looking to newfound maturity and growth as two of the big factors to help him get there.

"I'd say toward the end of the season after redshirting (things started clicking)," said Hampton. "That kind of hurt me because I was expecting to play. After redshirting that just kind of opened my eyes like if I want to play I've just got to do everything right. Just paying attention to everything I do. It's been great. Finally getting out here and just going over the playbook every day, I'm just taking it one day at a time and trying to get better. That's all I'm looking for out here."

Assistant head coach in charge of defense Ellis Johnson also agreed with Hampton that maturity was one of the biggest issues holding him back from earning playing time as a true freshman.

But Johnson also said that Hampton must learn to match that consistency of character with consistency of play on the field.

"He's improved greatly, but he's still got a consistency problem," said Johnson. "Both assignments and fundamentals and techniques. His techniques will go out the window and he gets beat on coverage sometimes against people he ought to be able to cover like a blanket. But he's made a tremendous jump from last fall, it looks like he's going to be able to help us if he'll just become a more consistent player, a more consistent person. I think some, it translates off the field and on the field though and you've got to have that consistency in everything you do. That's the biggest thing that's limiting him right now as far as challenging and having a chance to win a job. But we're very pleased with some of the things he's doing, and no question he's got the physical ability to be a great player but you've got to do it every play."

Hampton agreed but also said he is putting in the work to see success in all areas of his life now.

"It's been an obstacle, like all my life," said Hampton. "I'm just getting better now, when I first got here I was struggling a little bit, just adjusting. Now I'm just going about it every day, it's just great right now. On the field and in school so I can't ask for anything better right now."

Competition certainly won't be in short supply on the Carolina defense through spring practice and into the fall. Hampton will be competing with established defenders like Stephon Gilmore and Akeem Auguste for playing time.

But Hampton isn't backing down from that challenge, or the challenge of going up against one of the top wide receivers in America at practice.

"It makes you come to work everyday, knowing that everyday you can move up or move back," said Hampton. "You can't take any days off."

And how about facing an All-America wide receiver in Alshon Jeffery?

"It's great, it gets you better," said Hampton. "He's the best wide receiver in the nation so its great everyday when you line up against him you know you've got to go your hardest. Yeah and it feels good too, it feels great. Next time he comes back, he tries to (Randy) Moss me every time."

It was a struggling unit in the secondary last year despite several returning leaders, as South Carolina finished tenth in the SEC in pass defense. But those problems are leading to more focus and inspiration this spring as USC looks to prove they have the defenders to contain teams through the air.

"We actually feel like we want to be the best on the field offense wise and defense wise," said Hampton. "We want everybody to know that we are the best position on the field and that nobody can throw the ball on us. So last year going through those ups and downs and those missed assignments (were) just trying to get better."

Coach Lorenzo Ward also said that Hampton has a chance to be special and described him as "electric with the ball in his hands." But Ward also cautioned that Hampton will have to get things figured out on the mental end if he wants to be a long term contributor.

But for now at least, confidence is at an all time high for Victor Hampton. He has made it through his redshirt year and continues to distance himself from past troubles while also making an impact on the field.

And when asked how good he can be when healthy and focused?

"One of the best corners in the world."

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