Gamecocks' linemen on new coach Travian Robertson: 'You hired the right guy'

BLYTHEWOOD — Travian Robertson walked into South Carolina’s ops building before first light and saw that he had been beaten to the office. Defensive tackle Tonka Hemingway was already there, sitting in the dark at Robertson’s desk watching film.
Each grinned.
It’s the commitment each wants to see from the other. The player wants to be what Robertson was, an NFL veteran who was the heart of a mean and talented USC defensive line; and the coach wants all of his linemen to be the kind who pledge to make themselves better, each and every day.
“Tonka, he’s been working his butt off, rehabbing, training,” Robertson said on Wednesday, taking his turn at Shane Beamer’s media golf outing. “He’s been in that facility so much, it’s amazing, because sometimes you got to beg guys to come in.”
The newest hire to the coaching staff, Robertson hits the rare trifecta. He’s a rising star in the industry because of how good he’s already proven to be, from a coaching and recruiting standpoint; he played at the highest level, with 13 games among three seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks; and he’s a USC alum.
There was only one man Beamer was turning to when Jimmy Lindsey jumped ship to LSU this offseason. Robertson didn’t need to be asked twice.
“The opportunity to bring Travian back home, a former South Carolina player, highly recruited out of the state of North Carolina that decided to come to South Carolina. So we need more guys in that state to follow his lead and come across the border south,” Beamer said. “He was a highly recruited guy, great player in college, good NFL career and he’s made an impact already.
"One of our defensive linemen pulled me aside a week after Travian had been on campus and said, ‘You hired the right guy.’”
Robertson got his family moved in around the second week of June and is taking his time unpacking. It isn’t like Columbia is unfamiliar.
As preseason camp dawns, he’s already gotten a look at his players and has a good idea of what he wants to see on Sept. 2, when the season begins. But there’s an entire month of camp before that.
“I’m looking forward to seeing everyone really show out. The way I want my D-line to be, I want a rotation,” he said. “I always tell my guys, ‘I’m not worried about who’s starting, I’m worried about who’s finishing.’”
The Gamecocks lost Zacch Pickens and M.J. Webb up front, and both of their starting ends. Robertson is in charge of the nose and defensive tackles while Sterling Lucas handles the edges, but both work together in pass-rush packages.
Each helps the other, which is another plus in Robertson’s corner. He coached seventh-year senior edge Jordan Strachan at Georgia State, so he’s familiar with how he can piece into the line.
But other than that, it’s getting a lot of newbies up to speed and relying on the returning experienced talent. Hemingway, Boogie Huntley, Nick Barrett and T.J. Sanders have been around for a while; Elijah Davis played two years of junior-college ball.
“Elijah, so looking forward for him. He’s a JUCO kid, he had a great spring, and a big young kid is Xzavier McLeod,” Robertson said. “He knows the expectations, being Mr. Football coming in from the state, he’s saying, ‘Hey coach, I really got to play this year.’”
They already know the expectations from Robertson as well. You’re going to play hard, be tough and succeed, because there simply is no other way.

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