South Carolina Football Offseason Autopsy:
Grading the Offensive Line
There is no way to avoid saying the truth: the South Carolina offensive line was really bad this season.
However, there should be some context that is added to that statement when discussing the 2023 campaign. The Gamecocks were ravaged by injuries on the offensive line. Six linemen who were in the 2-deep at some point this year missed the majority or all of the season, three more starters missed multiple games, and the rest of the starters played hurt at times.
Despite all of the injuries, it is still fair to say that USC didn’t do enough up front to have a successful offense. The big fellas allowed 41 sacks (118th in the country) and 75 tackles for loss (125th in the country). Based on those numbers, it’s a testament to Spencer Rattler’s brilliance that the offense managed to finish in the top-100 this season.
Veteran Vershon Lee was the best performer this season, both when he played inside at center and when he slid out to right tackle later in the season, and the fact that he returns next season means that he likely will start somewhere in 2024.
Freshmen Tree Babalade and Tro Baugh started the majority of the year and flashed some good moments. However, as is usually the case, they struggled at times because they were first-year players forced to compete in the SEC before they were ready.
Grad transfer Nick Gargiulo didn’t have a great year but had to start (both at left guard and at center), and versatile older players Trai Jones and Jakai Moore both battled injuries and had some decent moments and some not-so-decent moments.
After Cason Henry went down with an injury, the early-season right tackle battle between Sidney Fugar and Tyshawn Wannamaker resulted in a lot of poor play at that position.
Though another talented freshman class is set to arrive in Columbia next year (5-star Josiah Thompson, 4-star Kam Pringle, and 4-star Blake Franks), the Gamecocks could be inclined to try to find a stopgap or two out of the transfer portal until all of the youngsters are ready to play full-time.