Spring wrap-up: Cornerback
South Carolina assistant coach Shane Beamer worked with the cornerbacks for the first time with the Gamecocks this spring after coaching the outside linebackers last year. The former Virginia Tech walk-on has to be happy with the talent he has acquired, as USC is deeper and more experienced at cornerback than they have been in a long time.
While he didn't play a snap this spring due to a left foot injury sustained at the end of last season, Captain Munnerlyn is the clear leader of the group and the no. 1 cornerback on the South Carolina roster. The Moblie, Ala. native had an impressive first two seasons at USC, snatching five interceptions and totaling 83 tackles. After a solid true freshman season that saw Munnerlyn start five games, the sophomore sensation garnered first team All-SEC honors by the SEC coaches and was named to the second team list by the AP last fall.
Despite his small 5'9", 185-pound stature, Munnerlyn has become a fan favorite due to his aggressive and confident attitude on the field. Munnerlyn is the type of shutdown corner every good defense needs and will allow USC defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson to lock down one side of the field, giving him a certain amount of freedom in his play calling. Munnerlyn was recently named to the 2008 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List, which is given annually to the country's top defensive player.
Munnerlyn may be the Gamecocks' top returner at corner, but the talk of spring practice was the play of newcomer Akeem Auguste. Auguste joined the South Carolina roster this spring after spending a semester at Fork Union Military Academy and immediately impressed with his natural cover skills and ability to play the ball in the air. The former Chaminade Madonna standout was ranked the no. 31 cornerback in the nation and a four star prospect by Scout.com coming out of high school. He chose South Carolina over West Virginia, Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh.
Auguste's strong play this spring did not go unnoticed by the coaches, as Spurrier has frequently mentioned the potential Auguste has on his Gamecock Club circuit. The Hollywood, Fla. native also showed a knack for making big plays and an incredible ability to break on the ball despite being picked on in coverage by the quarterbacks at times. Auguste was given the Defensive Big Play Award by the coaches during halftime of the Garnet and Black Game for his performance throughout spring camp. Despite just being a true freshman, Auguste doesn't play like a first year player and could contend for a starting spot opposite Munnerlyn in the fall.
One player who may have something to say about Auguste starting this year is veteran returning starter Carlos Thomas. Thomas has had an up-and-down career up to this point, but has made 20 career starts — good for fourth on the team. Thomas has played in 35 games during his career collecting 45 tackles and three picks. At 5'11", 197 lbs. and clocking in at 4.37 seconds in the forty, Thomas is one of the best athletes on the team, but has struggled with consistency at times. The former Banneker High standout has added good weight to his frame since coming to Columbia and has NFL-type measurables if he can put together a consistent senior year. As impressive as Auguste's spring was, Thomas will still likely get the starting nod in the season opener against NC State due to his experience.
Another experienced talent in the Gamecocks' secondary is versatile athlete Stoney Woodson. Woodson has played safety and cornerback at times during his career, but the added depth in the USC secondary will allow Woodson to play his natural cornerback position this season. Like Thomas, Woodson is a speedster who is best in coverage, but sometimes lacks in run support. Woodson, who has started 13 games and has played in 35 in his collegiate career, has racked up 82 tackles and four interceptions during that time. The former Middleton High standout was not highly recruited, but has developed into a solid SEC player and will once again play singificant minutes for a Gamecock secondary that was ranked fourth in the nation last year.
Sophomore Addison Williams also had a productive spring and showed improvement from his freshman year when he was forced into action playing in 10 games. The 5'8", 181-pounder recorded eight tackles last year and showed his natural athleticism and ability at times as a freshman. The Atlanta, Ga. native has potential, but will likely be the team's fifth cornerback with the experienced depth that has been amassed ahead of him.
Former four-star prospect Jamire Williams, a redshirt freshman, has as much potential as almost any cornerback on the roster, but struggled with nagging injuries this spring. Williams will likely have trouble finding the field much this year, but will compete for a spot on the two-deep next year.
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