NFL draft: S.C. corner Gilmore lets play do the talking

jperson@charlotteobserver.comApril 18, 2012 

USC's Stephon Gilmore gains yardage after making an interception against quarterback Stephen Garcia during the Garnet and Black Spring game at Williams-Brice Stadium._Columbia, S.C. Photo by C. Aluka Berry - The State Media Company.


  • NFL draft preview Our NFL draft preview is spread over eight days, leading up to the selections on April 26-28. The schedule: Thursday: Defensive backs Friday: Tight ends, running backs Saturday: Kickers, punters Sunday: Quarterbacks Monday: Offensive linemen Tuesday: Linebackers Wednesday: Wide receivers April 26: Defensive linemen

Stephon Gilmore has three suits to choose from to wear to the NFL draft next week at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

The South Carolina cornerback, one of two Gamecocks who will be in New York for the first round, has a bright blue suit, a gray pinstriped suit with a purple shirt, and a more conservative gray one.

Gilmore, who led Rock Hill South Pointe to a state title as a quarterback, has not decided which one he’ll wear.

“I’m going to see how I look in them,” Gilmore said. “I want to pick out something that looks good but not too flashy.”

Good but not flashy also could describe Gilmore, who started all 40 games during his three-year college career.

Gilmore might not be as complete a corner as LSU’s Morris Claiborne. He doesn’t have the national championship resume of Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick, and is not as big a talker as North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins.

But the 6-foot, 190-pounder with good size and great speed has quietly moved up the draft boards and is expected to be the second corner taken next week behind Claiborne. Next week’s trip to New York will be the latest flight for Gilmore, who has met individually with at least 10 teams.

“It’s been tiring,” Gilmore said Tuesday from the Buffalo airport after visiting with the Bills. “But it’s better to be wanted than worrying about how many teams you’ve visited.”

Gilmore, who entered the draft after his junior season, finished his Gamecocks’ career with four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and eight interceptions, including one against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl in his final game.

South Carolina assistant Lorenzo Ward, who was Gilmore’s position coach before being named the Gamecocks’ defensive coordinator this offseason, said the only question scouts had about Gilmore last fall concerned his speed.

Gilmore answered it by running the 40 in 4.40 seconds at the combine. He said one scout timed him at 4.3 on a hand-held stopwatch.

“It didn’t surprise me. I always knew I ran a low-4.4,” Gilmore said. “I think my body was rested and I was just ready to go.”

The other issue raised by scouts: Some say Gilmore plays too high and is not fluid in his backpedal.

“Everybody’s got something to work on. You’re not going to be perfect,” Gilmore said. “But you can work on things they say you need to work on. I know I’ve got things to work on, but I know I’m one of the best cornerbacks in this draft.”

Ward thinks the talk of poor technique is nitpicking. He said Gilmore is a tough competitor who has no off-the-field baggage.

“He’s solid all around. Not just as a player, he’s solid as a person,” Ward said. “He’s a great kid. You don’t have to worry about him getting into trouble. He’s a competitive young man.”

Stevie Gilmore said he told his son when he was in third or fourth grade that his conduct would help determine his future.

“I told him if you carry yourself in a good way and keep your nose clean, it will help you out at the next level in college and the NFL,” Stevie Gilmore said.

Character issues have dogged a couple of the other corners in this year’s draft. Jenkins was dismissed from Florida following three marijuana-related arrests. And though he told reporters at the combine he stopped smoking pot at North Alabama, he has slid to the second round in most mock drafts.

Kirkpatrick also had a marijuana arrest, although the charge was later dropped.

“I try to keep a clean slate,” Gilmore said. “I don’t really worry about the other players. I just try to do what I know best.”

Ward said Gilmore’s quiet nature belies a competitive spirit on game days. Ward pointed to the Gamecocks’ win against Alabama two years ago, when Gilmore ripped Julio Jones’ helmet off following a short completion.

“Stephon always wants to go against the best players,” Ward said. “That’s why every day in 1-on-1s he wanted to go against Alshon Jeffery. He ain’t hiding from anybody.”

Gilmore doesn’t have a great read on which team will pick him. He visited recently with Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks, hired in January after coaching for the San Diego Chargers.

“(The Panthers) definitely need some help on the defensive side of the ball, he told me. But you don’t actually know where they’re going to go,” Gilmore said. “He said they’ve just got to sit down with their coaches and come up with a decision.”

Gilmore met Wilks at the Shoney’s in Rock Hill. Gilmore ordered the barbecue.

“I didn’t really want anything too fancy,” he said.

But good, nonetheless.

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