COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - It’s been a long time since D.J. Wonnum last took the field for the South Carolina Gamecocks.
Too long if you ask him. The Gamecocks’ junior defensive end was sidelined after suffering an ankle injury against Coastal Carolina in the season opener. Now, he’s ready to strap on the pads and give his team the defensive boost they’ve needed.
“I can’t wait, man,” said Wonnum. “It feels like I’ve been waiting forever, but I’m ready to get back out there.”
On the ground, South Carolina has allowed nearly 190 yards on the ground per game over the last five contests with teams attacking the edges of the USC defense. With Wonnum gone, the Gamecocks used senior linebacker Bryson Allen-Williams among others to replace Wonnum on the field. With Wonnum back, the defense gets a boost on and off the field.
“Obviously, he is a very productive player in his two years here at South Carolina,” said Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp. “You see a lot of people offensively attack our edges defensively in my opinion. In the run game, he adds another dimension to us as far as a pass rusher is concerned. But I would say more than anything, from a leadership standpoint or presence standpoint, (he is) a guy that has a lot of respect in the locker room. He is one of three players in school history that has been voted a team captain in his true sophomore year. That says a lot about the respect D.J. has in the locker room and the type of young man he is. When he is on the practice field, the way he practices, the way he goes about his business, he helps our team improve and get better.”
Wonnum was initially expected to minute a week, but that all changed after Wonnum received his second MRI. Not being able to help the Gamecocks was frustrating for him, but Wonnum said he received a lot of encouragement from players and coaches.
“It was hard, but I waited,” Wonnum said. “When I get back, I just want to lead my guys and be positive and just keep them going.”
Seeing Wonnum in full uniform is something USC fans will be excited to see for Homecoming, but the fans are the only ones thrilled to see the Stone Mountain, Ga., native back on the field.
“He’s a great player,” said Allen-Williams. “I love playing with D.J. Just having him on the other end of me helps me out a lot. It helps the team out. [Other teams], they’ve got to double team him and I can’t wait to see him back out there. I’m going to be excited for him.”
South Carolina will host Tennessee under the lights at Williams-Brice Stadium at 7:30 p.m. The game can be seen on the SEC Network.