Senior offensive linemen A.J. Cann and Corey Robinson will be playing their final collegiate games Saturday against Miami. Junior Brandon Shell never strongly considered joining in saying goodbye this season, he said.
“It was brought up, but I didn’t give it a lot of consideration,” he said.
Now offensive line coach Shawn Elliott wants to see Shell grow into the role Cann filled this year.
“That’s one of the big things I want to see is, those guys move away and he’s now the big guy in town so to speak and have him become more for a leader of our group, see if he can develop into that and see where it goes,” Elliott said.
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Elliott described Shell’s 2014 season as “pretty average.”
“He has had some exceptional ball games and he has fallen off a little bit in some other ball games,” Elliott said.
Shell described the last 12 games in almost exactly the same way.
“I had a lot of ups and downs,” he said. “I had a lot of good games, a lot of bad games. I wouldn’t sit here and say I had a bad season. I wouldn’t say I had a good season.”
Shell, who started all 12 games at right tackle this season, could move to left tackle next season.
“We have some thoughts on some things we are going to do next year, but right now we are just thinking about Miami and playing a good game, hopefully getting us a win and setting the tone for an offseason that is going to be really, really a telltale sign for how next year is going to be,” Elliott said.
Junior Alan Knott, who started seven straight games at center midseason before losing his starting job to Clayton Stadnik for the final four games of the regular season, will start against Miami, Elliott said.
“If he is playing well, he’ll probably stay in,” Elliott said.
Offensive guard depth
Sophomore guard Cody Waldrop, who hasn’t been full strength since suffering a patella tendon injury in his knee during pregame warm-ups before the Sept. 13 Georgia game, is expected to return fully healthy for the 2015 season, Elliott said.
“He’s had a banged up career here,” Elliott said. “He played the Georgia game, probably the best game he has played here in his career, and he did that on a torn patella tendon. He’s a tough guy.”
Waldrop won’t play against Miami due to his knee injury.
If Mike Matulis, who was scheduled to start at guard this season, before suffering a knee injury in the preseason, also returns, the Gamecocks will have plenty of options at guard next season.
“Mike is upbeat,” Elliott said. “He’s ready to get back, get going. Who knows what the future holds for him, but whatever he decides we will all be in 100 percent agreement and go from there.”
Wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. is ready to move on following the departure of junior Shaq Roland, the former PARADE All-American who left the team last week.
“That happens sometimes,” Spurrier Jr. said. “Everybody is different. The majority of the time I can remember the guys that come in kind of lower rated are hungrier, outside of Alshon Jeffery and your elite players. There are the guys who are underrated who fight hard all the time and fight to earn their way. We wish Shaq the best and appreciate all his contributions here. I hope he finds what he seeks.”
Nick Jones and Pharoh Cooper will start at wide receiver, and K.J. Brent will start if the team is in a three-receiver set, Spurrier Jr. said.
“Shamier Jeffery will play a good bit,” Spurrier Jr. said. “Those four guys expect them to have the most action in the game.”
Six-foot-two, 225-pound junior Cedrick Cooper, who has missed the last seven games due to a high ankle sprain, is expected to make the first start of his career in place of the injured David Johnson at defensive tackle. Cooper, who started his career at linebacker, has two tackles this season.