Countdown note: GoGamecocks’ Josh Kendall, David Cloninger and Dwayne McLemore each ranked the 10 players most important to South Carolina’s offense in 2014. We took their predictions, compiled a composite list and are revealing it one player a day through July 14. (This is not a ranking of the team’s best players -- it’s our rank of the players who are most vital to the team’s success.)
7. Mike Matulis
Mike Matulis blossomed into the right guard during the spring, a surprise considering he’d spent so much time at tackle and had been plowing through two bum shoulders for most of his career. He’ll be charged with using those shoulders to clear lanes for tailback Mike Davis.
After missing seven games in 2012 due to surgery on his left shoulder and all of 2013 after surgery on his right shoulder, Matulis lost more than 60 pounds and thought football was part of his past. Matulis now weighs 306 pounds, and his shoulders feel at full strength for the first time since his freshman year, he said.
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Matulis, from Park Vista High in Boynton Beach, Fla., played as a true freshman, started five games and was named a first-team freshman All-American in 2011.
With Matulis rebuilt and Corey Robinson and Brandon Shell entrenched on the edge, offensive line coach Shawn Elliott looked for a place to put Matulis. He has settled at least for now on right guard.
“If you can play with leverage, you can move inside. Typically when you have a taller guy like him, it’s harder to do inside. He’s done an exceptional job,” Elliott said. “He’s got good hips. He can bend. He can play with the leverage we need right now.”
Best-case scenario: Matulis stays healthy and adds another veteran presence to an already deep line while filling the starting role given up by Ronald Patrick.
Stats: 10 career starts