Eric Wolford smiled as he walked over to media members after Monday’s practice. By now, the first-year offensive line coach is used to the routine.
“Monday night," a USC official said to Wolford with a laugh, signaling it was the coach's turn for interviews.
“Monday comedy show,” Wolford added with a wry grin.
The reason for the weekly Wolford show is simple: Monday night is the first media availability for assistant coaches and players, and that’s when coaches whose units are struggling are requested by reporters.
Wolford actually got somewhat of a reprieve Monday, as special teams coach Shane Beamer was getting more attention for his unit’s kickoff coverage. But it was clear there are still problems on the offensive line, and Wolford, as he always has, patiently answered all our questions.
Normally it’s a matter of personnel – who’s going to be shifted where to fix such-and-such hole. But as the season has worn on, Wolford has apparently figured out that tinkering with his lineup isn’t going to fix it.
It’s just going to take time. Recruiting time, and time in the weight room.
Wolford said his players are “a little bit physically behind,” and need more time with strength coach Craig Fitzgerald, like Wolford an offseason hire by coach Steve Spurrier.
“We need to be stronger, you know what I mean?” Wolford said. “We get matched up against the elite teams’ defensive lines in this league and that’s the thing that shows up. Unfortunately coach Fitz hasn’t had a chance to spend enough time with these guys. I don’t think there’s been enough commitment on the players’ part.
“You’re not gonna make up two or three years in six months, you know what I mean? You need to be benching over 400 pounds and you need to be squatting over six, power-cleaning over 50. Those are the numbers you’ve gotta have. This is the SEC.”
The players need to get "bigger, faster, and stronger" - that's all? - according to Wolford. And he meant current and future Gamecocks. When he's on the recruiting trail, Wolford said he always asks the high school coach whether a recruit is the kind that asks for the weight room key, and how much he can bench-press and squat.
The Gamecocks do have enough commitments from future offensive linemen to fill out a new line. And those players have those intangibles.
“No question,” Wolford said. “Those are things that you’ve gotta have. You’re not always gonna have the most athletic guy. You can be athletic all you want, but if a guy is physically stronger than you in this small area, he’s just gonna throw you around.”
At one point, Wolford was asked straight-up if the recruiting the past few years for the line could have been better. He shrugged off the question, saying he wasn’t around and that the guys that are here now are putting forth the effort.
“I just think it’s a little bit unfortunate that they’re a little bit behind,” he said, speaking of the weight room work.
There are some positives, or at least improvements, according to Wolford. Kenny Miles’ yards-per-carry was more than five, and the sack rate is down. But Wolford wasn’t crowing about it.
“We’re making some progress, it’s just unfortunately not as fast as we want it to be,” he said.