Lorenzo Ward has coached a lot of players over his 20 plus years in the college ranks and one season in the NFL but very few have made an impression on him like Stephon Gilmore. The Defensive Coordinator at the University of South Carolina was gushing about the Buffalo Bills first round draft pick during an interview with the WGR Morning show on Tuesday.
“He’s probably the most competitive young man I’ve ever coached” Ward said. “I’ve been blessed to coach some pretty good football players, some that have played in the league(NFL) for quite some time. D’Angelo Hall was a young man I was blessed to coach at Virginia Tech and even when I was in the pros(Oakland in 2006) I was able to coach Nnamdi Asomugha. I think Gilmore is right in those two guys class.”
With 40 starts over his three seasons at South Carolina, Gilmore has an impressive college resume which is one of the reasons the Bills were more than happy to use their first round pick, 10th overall on the cornerback.
Ward says much of the credit for Gilmore’s development in his football career goes to Gilmore himself. “You don’t have to motivate Stephon. Stephon comes to work every day” Ward told WGR. “He’s self motivated and wants to be good and he is a very professional young man in everything he does so I know what I would get in a Gilmore. I have never seen the young man or heard the young man drink. He’s not a partier. You won’t see him in the lime light and in the streets of Buffalo. That’s not who he is.”(Insert your favorite Marshawn Lynch story here)
No question Gilmore comes highly recommended but can he start right away in the NFL? From a physical standpoint, there’s no doubt in Ward’s mind that Gilmore can do just that. It will come down to his learning curve and how fast he grasps the NFL game and the Bills schemes. But Ward is confident Gilmore will dive right into Dave Wannstedt’s play book from day one. Every chance Gilmore had, he would head to the film room to do some studying and Ward said that was also a trait of Asomugha.
There are some fans who were concerned with Gilmore’s subdued reaction on draft night and his soft spoken, even keeled personality that has been evident in his first few interviews with Western New York media but Ward says not to worry. “Stephon is very quiet, he very rarely talks” Ward said. “But when the lights come on, when he crosses the white line, whether its practice or in a game, he’s ready to compete. He’s physical, he wants to go against the best receiver in practice. A lot of times in the league, they look for leaders and they think leaders have to be voices but that’s not how Stephon leads.”
Gilmore started from day one for the Gamecocks and was All SEC 3 seasons in Columbia but still made strides from his freshman year through his junior campaign. “I think his greatest growth came in the knowledge of the game” said Ward. “Studying his opponent or learning totally what we’re doing on defense. Not just his position but what other people were doing around him and I think it helped him understand when he can take a chance and when he couldn’t take a chance.”