At the end of South Carolina’s spring football practice, Donell Stanley and the rest of the Gamecocks offensive line knew something was wrong.
It’s not always the easiest thing, admitting one is short of what he should be. But with a little prodding from offensive line coach Eric Wolford, the linemen recognized the situation.
“We were way behind where we should have been,” Stanley said. “Compared to other linemen, we were just not there, as a whole.”
This wasn’t great for a unit hoping to reverse a two-year trend of struggling in a variety of facets. The Gamecocks had the month of May to do with what they wish, owing to a particular quirk in the school’s academic calendar.
And the linemen put that month to use.
“So the whole group stayed and made everybody stronger,” Stanley said. “We’re pretty much where we need to be right now.”
USC coach Will Muschamp said the team had 40-plus players stay through “May-mester” to keep working out with the weight staff and strength coach Jeff Dillman. That’s notable considering a team only has 85 scholarship players and most of the freshmen and transfers had not arrived yet.
“It was something everybody was committed to,” Stanley said. “Coach Wolf, he was big on it because we knew we were behind and he knew where we needed to be. He wanted everybody to stay.
“We took the most (out) of it.”
Stanley only played eight snaps in 2016, most after a painful ankle injury that ended up sidelining him the rest of the season. The Gamecocks line played shorthanded most of the year, with a pair of season-ending injuries and a redshirt freshman thrown into the fire at right tackle.
Last year, the Gamecocks only got five or more yards on a carry 38.9 percent of the time, a figure that ranked 77th nationally. They also ranked worse than 100th in how often they converted on short-yardage runs and how often runners failed to get back to the line of scrimmage.
Perhaps another year and four consecutive months hitting the weights will help that. Can’t hurt.
“The whole group’s got a whole lot stronger,” Stanley said. “You can tell it.”