Judging an offensive line off practice might seem like a tricky proposition.
Players can show power, win one-on-ones, all the rest. But it seems as if there’s something different when there’s a real defense on the other side.
South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley said that’s not the case, and if anything, there’s a lot he can take from his linemen in practice. After watching them, he’s come to one conclusion.
“The run game looks exponentially better than it did,” Bentley said. “I think the guys, just from communication to knowing where they’re going to knowing who they’ve got to reach to or whatever, they’re doing a great job.”
Were that to translate onto the field, it would be a welcome change for USC. The Gamecocks ranked 94th nationally last season in yards per carry at 4.0. Some of that was on a backfield that dealt with injuries and inconsistency, but it also came down to a line that didn’t get push as often as needed.
There’s also a slight reason to be skeptical: history. Coaches talked up the line a good bit going into 2016, and it struggled mightily. There was more before 2017, and while the team improved, the group with more than 100 career starts was more solid than dominant (and more in pass protection than the run game).
The graduation of interior fixtures Cory Helms and Alan Knott led to some reshuffling. Right tackle Zack Bailey moved to his old guard position. Left guard Donell Stanely shifted inside to center. Career reserve Blake Camper looks to be the man at right tackle, and Sadarius Hutcherson, who flashed potential as an injury fill-in, is in line to start.
That means some moving and shifting, along with picking up any changes new offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon might want to bring in.
But the quarterback they’ll protect thinks they’ve come through all that well.
“I think you have all the individual time that we have at practice, especially with them,” Bentley said. “I think they get so many reps and have been doing it. The offensive line can get their reps without a ball out there. So they’re constantly together, doing their steps, getting their tracks right. So I think they’ve really jelled nicely. I think they communicate really well together.”
Spring game recap for RBs
▪ Running back Ty’Son Williams was the game’s top rusher with 63 yards on four carries. Williams had a 27-yard touchdown run.
▪ A.J. Turner had 37 yards on three carries and scored on a touchdown reception.
▪ Newcomer Deshuan Fenwick had 13 carries for 33 yards and scored twice.
▪ Rico Dowdle (hamstring) did not play.