College Sports

This Gamecock came in strong for a freshman. Why he could be ‘a problem’ for opponents

Mike Peterson seeing progress from Gamecocks pass rushers

South Carolina Gamecocks football assistant coach Mike Peterson breaks down his group of pass rushers with DJ Wonnum, Rodricus Fittern, Brad Johnson
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South Carolina Gamecocks football assistant coach Mike Peterson breaks down his group of pass rushers with DJ Wonnum, Rodricus Fittern, Brad Johnson

The first thing South Carolina outside linebacker coach Mike Peterson said about one of the newest members of his room, Rodricus Fitten: He’s strong.

That sounds like a small thing. Obviously any defensive player should be strong. But when you’re talking about a player coming in at 232 pounds, a player who might well end up going against offensive tackles on the edge, that’s a key building block.

“It’s very important,” Peterson said. “You see a young guy that can lift the amount of weight that he can lift and have that upper body strength, it’s a plus for the guy.”

Peterson declined to detail exactly how much the Atlanta product is lifting, joking Fitten would call him out for shorting him 10 or so pounds.

At the moment, he’s working behind veterans D.J. Wonnum and Brad Johnson. He’s more than 10 pounds lighter than either, but he’s got the attention of at least one teammate.

“Once he learns the technique, the fundamentals and what to do and how to do it and play fast all the time he’s definitely going to be a problem,” Johnson said.

The third-year player added he sees a bit of his own experience in Fitten’s, watching the coaches get on the freshman the same way they got on Johnson in years past.

USC is looking to improve a pass rush that struggled as the front four took on injury after injury. A few limited Wonnum to five games and forced linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams to play Buck, robbing the team of a certain level of flexibly.

Fitten had 45 tackles, eight for loss and four sacks as a high school senior. He was the No. 495 recruit in his class by the 247 Sports composite rankings and the No. 36 weakside defensive end.

What he’s able to do in the near-term remains to be seen. He possesses the speed and strength Peterson wants, but he has to learn the craft of his position. And even there, he’s shown a little something.

“He plays fast,” Peterson said. “Now it was kind of to the point where I’m trying to shorten the learning curve for him. Get him to do things the way we do things. He’s been great at it. Studying. Extra time. Comes in after practice every day, wants to grab me find of the good things he did and the bad things he did, which is a good thing for a young guy.”

South Carolina football commit Rodricus Fitten updates his recruitment

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