COLUMBIA, S.C. -- As a freshman, Stephon Gilmore was something to see.
As a sophomore, you might see even more of him.
Gilmore is raring to take on as much as the South Carolina coaches want to give him.
“Cornerback is my position. That’s what I play, and that’s my focus,” Gilmore said. “But if I can help this team get to where we all want to go by playing some at quarterback, returning punts, wherever they need me to line up, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Gilmore was one of those rare breeds a year ago, starting at cornerback in the SEC in his very first game and playing his way to Freshman All-America honors.
“It was a good start, but I have a lot better feel about everything now and a better understanding of what it takes to play corner in this league,” Gilmore said. “There were times last year I was a little unsure on plays, and I didn’t react as fast as I needed to.
“I think I’ll play faster next season and be able to make more big plays.”
The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Gilmore will get his chances on both sides of the ball, too.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he wants to use Gilmore in the Wildcat package at quarterback at least two series per game. A quarterback in high school, Gilmore toasted Clemson in that package last season to set the tone for the Gamecocks’ 34-17 win over the Tigers.
“He’s so talented and does everything you ask of him,” Spurrier said. “I don’t think there’s a position he couldn’t play. He stepped in and started right away last year, and you don’t see that in this league at the position he plays.
“And the truth is that we should have used him more on offense than we did last year.”
Shawn Elliott, the Gamecocks’ offensive line coach and running game coordinator, said there’s no doubt that Gilmore brings another dimension to their running game. He can also throw, as evidenced by his 39-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery to set up a touchdown against Clemson in his only series at quarterback.
“Any time you’ve got a guy like Stephon back there, you get excited,” Elliott said. “He can do it all. He can make the defender miss. He can break big plays. He’s the kind of player you sit around the meeting room and scheme-up plays with. It’s definitely something we can build on.”
Of course, the concern is not wearing Gilmore out. He also returned punts last season. Ellis Johnson, the Gamecocks’ assistant head coach for the defense, will keep a close eye on whether Gilmore is being spread too thin.
Gilmore, who patterned his game after Green Bay Packers cornerback Al Harris, said the championship goals for this team are real.
“We just have to come together as a team,” he said. “In the past, it’s either been the offense or the defense. We just have to put it all together, and I think this team definitely has a chance to do that. We’ve got the talent, and we’ve got the players on this team to win a championship. We’ve just got to go do it.”