When asked about the ceiling of R.J. Roderick, South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp took a moment to consider the question.
“I think he has a high ceiling, I really do,” Muschamp said before going into greater detail.
What he didn’t know was his veteran safety Steven Montac had already done his fair share of talking up the former quarterback.
“He’ll definitely be one of the best safeties to come out of South Carolina,” Montac said. “He looks like a linebacker. He runs like a corner, and he hits like a linebacker too, can cover like a corner. He’s special, and he’s really going to be special.”
The praise is high, but parts of it seem accurate.
The Cane Bay High School product is tall and stocky for a player at his position. He moves well, runs well and is suddenly being counted on for a lot.
He was a 1,700-yard rusher as a high school junior, and overcame a back injury as a senior. Quickly after arriving in the spring, it became clear he’d have some role in 2018.
But a nagging injury in August cost him days and reps. That matters because he was learning a position he’d hardly played.
“He played situational on third down only, as a man-to-man cover guy or a deep safety,” Muschamp said. “So that’s all he’s ever really understood and known as far as a defensive back.
“There’s a lot of first, multiple times. I’m saying, he hasn’t been exposed to these things, so he doesn’t know.”
The coach likened it to the movie “50 first dates,” new starts again and again.
But now the player who started the season as a special teamer buried on the depth chart looks set to start. The Gamecocks are down four safeties. Roderick played more than 60 snaps in a high-tempo game against Ole Miss.
There were ups and downs, but South Carolina didn’t have more than one massive bust (only one pass allowed longer than 26 yards). Roderick was solid enough, and only has room to grow.
And his approach helps.
Muschamp said Roderick works hard to take things in, to carry them forward and adapt in the week-to-week shifts of facing different opponents. But he’s already got the physical tools, and each day, his feel for the position grows.
“He’s able to transfer those things very well because he’s so intelligent,” Muschamp said.