College Sports

Zacch Pickens ‘turning a corner’ in his development. So will he play right away?

South Carolina defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson on Zacch Pickens’ development

South Carolina football defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson discusses the development of five-star freshman Zacch Pickens from spring to fall and says whether the new Gamecocks will likely play in 2019.
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South Carolina football defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson discusses the development of five-star freshman Zacch Pickens from spring to fall and says whether the new Gamecocks will likely play in 2019.

What with Travaris Robinson raving about the “tremendous depth” South Carolina football has this season on the defensive side of the ball, the highest-rated recruit under coach Will Muschamp has flown relatively under the radar through training camp.

Freshman defensive lineman Zacch Pickens entered camp absent from USC’s first depth chart, competing against six or seven more experienced players for a spot.

But Robinson, the defensive coordinator, says he’s noticed a difference in Pickens from the spring, when he battled injuries and had a quiet Garnet and Black Game.

“More confident. That’s the most important thing. It’s hard to play defensive line as a freshman. Those guys are big, he’s always been bigger than everybody, so technique wasn’t very important. But now he’s realizing that he can’t just overpower people. He’s gotta play with leverage, play with technique, he’s gotta work on that stuff,” Robinson said.

“You know how it is, it’s just the different things of him understanding what’s demanded of him. Effort, getting to the ball, pad level, stuff like that, and he’s doing a great job.”

Defensive line coach John Scott Jr. has also noticed Pickens’ improvement in the mental side of the game from the spring.

Where there has never been any question is Pickens’ physical readiness. At 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, he had the speed to play some running back in high school, and Scott noted earlier in camp that he already has the body of a junior.

That alone would make Pickens a threat to play right away, but Robinson said he is now “turning the corner” in his overall development and will be “a really good player for us.”

That being said, he’s still a freshman, and rotations where he’s paired with a veteran have produced better on-field results in camp, Robinson said.

“It helps when he’s got (senior Kobe Smith) next to him and he got (senior Javon Kinlaw),

Robinson said. “He plays a lot better than when he got (redshirt freshman Tyreek Johnson) and all of them young guys next to him, and both of them looking at each other and don’t know what to tell each other.

“We just gotta continue to work. Our guys got the right mindset right now and we feel really good with where they are.”

So does that mean Gamecock fans can expect to see him Aug. 31 against North Carolina?

“Oh yeah, I imagine he’ll have a good opportunity to play,” Robinson said.

Greg Hadley is the beat writer for South Carolina women’s basketball and baseball for GoGamecocks and The State. He also covers football and recruiting.
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