Watching the first four days of Cody Waldrop’s conversion to center, Steve Spurrier was reminded of his high school baseball pitching career. Specifically, and unfortunately, Waldrop’s shotgun snaps brought to mind hard and low comebackers to the mound.
“In baseball, it would be called too hot to handle, base hit,” Spurrier said. “It would not be ruled an error on the quarterback the way those are coming back. I couldn’t catch any of them. He throws a bullet down around the left kneecap, left ankle most of the time. Dylan (Thompson) has got good hands, he grabbed a bunch of them, but about half of them are uncatchable.”
Waldrop, a 6-foot-2, 312-pound redshirt freshman, is moving from guard, where he was a three-time all-state selection at Armwood High in Seffner, Fla., this spring.
“He’s a dependable guy; he’s a hard working guy; he’s intelligent; he knows what to do and how to do it. The one thing we have to do is transition him from playing the guard to the center,” offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said. “Snapping and blocking is a little bit different than just going out there and blocking.”
This is the first time since Elliott arrived four years ago that he has had to break in a new center. T.J. Johnson started the past 53 games at the position for the Gamecocks, and Johnson made the same move during Elliott’s first spring practice that Waldrop is making now — and had the same growing pains.
“Each and every day is a different challenge for (Waldrop), but when I first got here T.J. was in the some routine,” Elliott said. “Every day will be better for him.”
Waldrop’s sizzling snaps are mostly the results of an eagerness to get on with the rest of his job, Elliott said.
“You have to release the ball,” Elliott said. “It’s the most important thing anybody does on the football field. It’s the snap. It starts every motion, and he’s going to get better.”
Waldrop is expected to be the only new starter along the offensive line when South Carolina opens the season this fall. Guards A.J. Cann and Ronald Patrick have started a combined 38 games, and tackles Brandon Shell and Corey Robinson started 10 and nine games, respectively, last season.
“I am just here to play ball,” Waldrop said. “The speed of the ball is all I have to work on, just getting it back there a little slower and below the waist. I am going to slow that down, and we’ll work from there.”
The Gamecocks are scheduled to scrimmage this morning at Williams-Brice Stadium (a practice that is open to the public), and Elliott is eager to see how Waldrop responds to his first game-like action.
“I’ll really be looking at how he makes calls without me standing behind him and saying, ‘All right Cody, you have to do this and you have to do that,’ ” Elliott said. “When I’m off the field, I want to see how he handles things.”