By Willie T. Smith III/Photo by Jenny Dilworth
Bryson Allen-Williams' career at South Carolina has taken a lot of twists and turns.
One thing that has been consistent, however, is the senior linebacker’s enthusiasm for the Gamecock football program.
Beginning his final season with the team, the Ellenwood, Ga. native has a goal. It is something he and fellow senior linebacker Skai Moore discuss constantly and are determined to make a reality.
“It’s crazy,” Allen-Williams said. “Skai and I are good friends. We want to leave the program better than when we got here. Skai’s first year they were 11-2. My first year we were 7-6. We want to get back to where we need to be and leave the program better than we found it.”
Allen-Williams is coming off his best statistical season as a Gamecock, finishing second in tackles with 75, including 46 solo stops. He was second in tackles for loss with 8.5 and picked off two opponent passes, including one against rival Clemson.
Beginning his second season in the defense designed by coordinator Travaris Robinson, the 6-0, 230-pounder is confident the Gamecocks are prepared to take a giant leap forward on that side of the football.
“After the (South Florida) game, when we came back, in the team meeting that was the biggest thing,” said Allen-Williams. (Director of Strength and Conditioning Jeff) Dillman, in the workouts throughout spring ball and summer workouts, our biggest thing was toughness. You’ve got to be able to embrace it.
“When things get hard in the fourth quarter you can’t fold. That’s one of the biggest things I take away from this offseason. We went through some hard things, but I think it helped build us as a team.”
Allen-Williams has taken his role as a team leader seriously.
“Skai and Bryson Allen are two guys that have played a lot of football,” head coach Will Muschamp said. “They are two very well-respected guys within the locker room. That means a lot. They are two experienced players and productive players as well.
“In order to be a leader, you’ve got to be a productive guy. You can’t be a guy running your mouth all the time but not make any plays. Those guys do lead by example by how they prepare, how they practice and how they go about their business, but they are very productive.”
While slated to start along with Moore and T.J. Brunson at linebacker, Allen-Williams has also received reps at the Buck position as the coaching staff continues to look for ways to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Robinson is confident Allen-Williams will be productive when called on to play the position.
“I really think Bryson will help us with some of those things,” Robinson said. “He is a guy who can (provide pressure standing up or with his hand on the ground). He has done both in college games. It doesn’t matter, whichever he’s comfortable with. Now he feels comfortable doing both, however he chooses to get there.”
Allen-Williams spent the summer preparing in anticipation of the partial move.
“I worked on using my hands, my speed,” he said. “I’m not the biggest guy, but you can beat guys with your speed. Being able to turn that speed into power will really help me out, help my defense out.”
He is also excited to be a part of Carolina's starting linebacker trio, believing Brunson will be a good fit.
“He is a physical linebacker,” said Allen-Williams. “He can run. He is very intelligent and he’s a playmaker. The thing about this defense is you’ve got to make plays. If you’re a guy who is real young, you’ve got to learn that because you are going to be here for a long time.”
As far as Moore, who is returning to action after missing the 2016 season following a neck injury, Allen-Williams says there has been no drop-off from the player that led the Gamecocks in tackles for three straight seasons.
“He’s just a dominant player, very instinctive,” Allen-Williams said. “He goes and gets the ball. He brings another playmaker to our defense.
“He’s been doing great. You’ve got to have those linebackers in the middle of this defense that can run. It allows you to do a lot of things as far as coverage and rushing. Having a guy like Skai come back and with T.J. in the middle, it is going to help a lot.”