In football, the offensive line doesn’t get the press that glamour positions like quarterback, wide receiver and running back get. Unless, of course, the quarterback and running back spend more time on their backs on the turf than they do on their feet actually making plays, in which case the line gets noticed for all the wrong reasons.
But it’s good to see the South Carolina Gamecocks line getting some good press, being ranked by ESPN as the top OL in the SEC. It goes without saying that with Dylan Thompson being handed the keys to the proverbial quarterback car in Columbia, the team needs to give him and the offense every chance to be successful, especially with defense missing so many pieces.
It starts up front: Carolina’s line allowed 23 sacks last season, not great but not terrible by any means. On the ground, Gamecocks running backs (mostly Mike Davis) racked up 198.5 yards per game, 32nd in the country.
With a year under their collective belts and all but one player coming back, those stats can only get better this season.Big Corey Robinson, regarded as a sure NFL prospect after this season, was named one of the most physical linemen in the country and will man the left tackle spot with second-team All-SEC selection Brandon Shell as his counterpart on the right side. Redshirt sophomore Cody Waldrop was named to the Rimington Award list, which is a great accomplishment in and of itself, even more so considering he only started six games last year. Imagine what he can do fully healthy. Redshirt senior and first team All-American preseason pick A.J. Cann, the stalwart of the group, adds a invaluable measure of leadership and experience (starting all but one game in his career).
And the mantle is being prepared to be passed on to the next generation.
Second-year freshman Na’ty Rogers hopes to continue to push Mike Matulis for the open right guard spot. Mason Zandi had some rave reviews this spring. Incoming Palmetto State duo Donell Stanley and Malik Young, possible redshirts, could be impact players in the future.
This group is being hailed as Steve Spurrier’s best O-line since coming to Columbia. And by all accounts, considering who’s returning and who’s waiting in the wings, that might be an accurate opinion. Hopefully for the Gamecocks, the upward trend from 2013 continues into 2014 and the front five continues to be noticed. For the right reasons.