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Wolford is lining up his options

USC  coach Eric Wolford watches as players run through drills during practice.
USC coach Eric Wolford watches as players run through drills during practice.

Eric Wolford may have gone weeks, perhaps months, at his previous jobs without getting an interview request. As he answered his umpteenth question Monday about the South Carolina offensive line, Wolford had to laugh.

"I've never seen anything like this in my life," he said.

Just imagine if the Gamecocks' line was struggling now as much as it has in past seasons.

Wolford, hired to fix the front five, has presided over a unit that, through four games, has allowed fewer sacks and is averaging more rushing yards per carry. And yet the former Illinois assistant continues to tinker with personnel.

The big question Monday was what would happen with Jarriel King, the starting left tackle, who was yanked at halftime of Thursday's victory against Mississippi. Would King move to defense and help at the beleaguered tackle position?

Not yet. In fact, King might start at his regular position against S.C. State on Saturday.

"Shoot, he can reclaim it tomorrow if he comes in and practiced better than the guy ahead of him," Wolford said. "I had a guy last week that lost his job on a bad practice on Wednesday. I'm not gonna tolerate poor effort and not practicing and not doing the things we need to do. We're not that good. No one's exempt from working hard and doing things right."

Coach Steve Spurrier was also adamant about King's status.

"Jarriel's still on offense," Spurrier said. "He may be the starter, he may not be. I don't know. We'll see how everybody practices this week."

Defensive tackle has become the most depth-challenged position on the team, thanks to the season-ending injury to Travian Robertson. Backup Kenny Davis, fourth on the depth chart, missed Monday's practice with a right ankle injury.

Junior Steven Singleton already has moved to the defensive line. And Wolford said King, followed by Lemuel Jeanpierre (a former defensive tackle), would be the most likely candidates to switch to defense.

But to hear Wolford tell it, his unit isn't in good enough position depth-wise to lose any players.

"I'm not sure I have enough guys that can play 70 plays a game, physically, against a good defensive line," Wolford said. "It has nothing to do with conditioning. We're in shape. It's more (that) you see Georgia plays 10 guys up front, defensive lines are playing eight to 10 guys, and you're trying to play five to seven, and physically we're not where we need to be. Some guys have probably a 40- to 50-play limit."

He listed eight players he feels comfortable enough to play, and intends to give all of them a shot: King, tackles Quintin Richardson, Kyle Nunn and Hutch Eckerson, center/guards Garrett Anderson and Jeanpierre, and guards T.J. Johnson and Heath Batchelor.

Left off that list was Terrence Campbell, who started the first two games at right guard. Campbell, recruited as a defensive linemen, could be another candidate to switch sides.

King's demotion was a surprise. He might be the most talented offensive lineman, and after starting 11 games at left tackle last season, he was expected to anchor the line.

Spurrier said King made too many "mental errors." He also said last week that Wolford was discovering for himself all the trouble the Gamecocks have had on the line the past few years.

Asked about that Monday, Wolford agreed. He mentioned mistakes on "really elementary plays," shaking his head. "It's amazing sometimes."

But he vowed to accomplish what Spurrier brought him here to do.

"We're gonna get it right come hell or high water, I can tell you that right now," Wolford said. "We're just gonna find a way."

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