football Edit

MIKEs and WILLs: Who plays where?


Gone are the days of 250-pound middle linebackers and the base 4-3 defense.

Changes in offensive trends are often followed by adjustments to defensive philosophies (and vice-a-versa). And with the majority of college football running some type of spread offense -- or at least featuring spread packages within their scheme -- the nickel defense is now the base for most college programs.

South Carolina is no different.

While the Gamecocks still have a 4-3 package within their scheme, a large percentage of their plays against most teams are run out of the nickel -- with the MIKE and the WILL serving as the two linebacker positions on the field.

But what goes into deciding which linebackers will play which position?

"It's skillset, body type, guys that are going to fill in the box -- both have got to play the run, both have got to be physical at the point of attack," explained inside linebackers coach Coleman Hutzler, who is responsible for both positions in Carolina's coaching structure.

T.J. Brunson served as the Gamecocks' starting MIKE -- or middle -- linebacker in every game last season and returns in that role this year. Sherrod Greene, who is playing both positions right now, is likely the odds-on favorite to replace Skai Moore at the WILL -- or weakside -- linebacker spot.

"That WILL is going to be out of the box and have to do some things out in space just a little bit more -- might cover a little bit more man-to-man on a tight end or something like that-- just do some different things coverage wise more than anything," Hutzler explained. "We blitz them both. They obviously both fit in the run game but in terms of coverage and drops and things like that."

While the WILL has more coverage responsibilities, it's Brunson at the MIKE who is tasked with calling out plays and being the vocal leader of the unit, a job that he's excelled in so far this offseason.

When Carolina does add a third linebacker to the field, it's in the form of the SAM or strongside linebacker, where Bryson Allen-Williams is the starter.

WILL Linebackers

Sherrod Greene *

Eldridge Thompson

Damani Staley

Ernest Jones *

MIKE Linebackers

T.J. Brunson

Rosendo Louis

Davonne Bowen

Sherrod Greene *

Ernest Jones *

SAM Linebackers

Bryson Allen-Williams (Also playing BUCK)

Daniel Fennell (Also playing BUCK)

Antoine Wilder

* Practicing at both WILL and MIKE