Brunson embracing role as 'voice' of defense
T.J. Brunson’s on-the-field stats show he’s one of the budding linebackers in the SEC. In just two years, he’s turned into one of the most productive members of the Gamecock defense.
Now, a seasoned veteran in Will Muschamp’s defense, Brunson is working on expanding his game and becoming the leader of an SEC defense.
“I think he took the bull by the horns in doing that. He’s a guy that our coaching staff on the defensive side of the football label as he’s our leader,” defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said. “He’s a really talented football player, a great person and he’s everything we want around at South Carolina.”
After being a rotation player his freshman year, Brunson started every game last season as the Gamecocks’ middle linebacker, picking up 88 total tackles, including two sacks.
As one of just six starters returning on defense and the only starting linebacker, he’s tasked with becoming the sole voice in defensive meeting rooms.
It took him a while to be as loud as he is now, but being the vocal leader is something he’s a natural at this year.
“Everything I do I try to make sure I speak up or let everyone know what’s going on,” Brunson said. “Whether that’s field work, workouts or walk-throughs. It’s really something it becomes second nature after a while.”
The Gamecocks are going to have to insert a few inexperienced linebackers into the starting lineup with second-year players Sherrod Greene, Eldridge Thompson, Damani Staley and Davonne Bowen all candidates to play and freshmen Rosendo Louis and Ernest Jones vying for time as well.
Thompson played in all but one game this past year with Greene seeing action in 10, combining for 32 tackles as part of the linebacker rotation. Greene is one of the leading candidates to fill the void left by Skai Moore, and he has a solid role model to look up to.
“It’s very easy,” Greene said of Brunson. “He shows his leadership through his actions on the field by going hard every play, every down. It’s just something I took after him.”
Robinson said with two many voices in a locker room trying to lead it could get cluttered, but Brunson’s does a good job cutting through that and being the sole voice of leadership on that side of the ball.
His position coach, Coleman Hutzler said Brunson is the “voice for our team,” saying coaches know they’re getting toughness, effort and a “relentless mindset to go out and compete and win” every day.
The best part of Brunson’s leadership? Hutzler nor any of the other coaches have to worry about coaxing it out of him.
“It’s player-driven and that’s what the really good teams have,” Hutzler said. “It’s fun to watch. Whether it’s a winter workout in the middle of January or practice five of spring ball, that guy’s going to bring it and you better bring it too.”