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Wolford's departure could impact recruiting

With Eric Wolford set to take over Tuesday at Youngstown State, South Carolina will begin looking for a new offensive line coach - while trying to convince recruits to stay with the Gamecocks until they do so.

Wolford's stint as USC's line coach and run game coordinator lasted less than a year. The 38-year-old will be introduced as the Penguins' coach Tuesday afternoon at a news conference at his hometown school.

Wolford leaves behind an improved line and an impressive list of offensive line prospects who committed to the Gamecocks believing Wolford would be their position coach.

USC coaches began calling many of the recruits, including Calhoun County's Eric Mack and Bamberg-Ehrhardt's A.J. Cann, on Sunday night after learning of Wolford's decision to leave for the FCS school in Ohio.

Though the Orangeburg area was not Wolford's recruiting territory, he was heavily involved in the recruitment of Mack and Cann, both of whom are ranked as four-star recruits by Rivals.com.

Wolford took an active role with all of the offensive line recruits, helping USC gain commitments from seven players to form an offensive line class ranked in the top three nationally by Rivals and Scout.com.

Now the key will be keeping them.

Calhoun County coach Walt Wilson said Mack developed a close bond with Wolford and was "shocked" and "upset" about his departure.

"Coach Wolford had a great impact on Mack's decision," Wilson said. "Linemen are different than those skill-position guys. Linemen have to feel the connection for that guy they're going to play for."

Wilson said Wolford took Cann and Mack through a spirited session of offensive line drills at Williams-Brice Stadium during a Gamecocks camp last summer.

"All three of them were sweating," Wilson said.

Wilson said USC recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer told him the Gamecocks hoped to hire someone "with the same kind of mentality" as Wolford.

"But you're not going to find too many coach Wolfords," Wilson said. "I understand it. It's a business. You have to do what's best for you and your family. It's going to pass. But it's hitting real hard because coach Wolford was such a hard worker."

Wolford is expected to receive a five-year contract at Youngstown State worth at least $250,000 annually.

Wolford had a three-year deal at USC worth $250,000 a year. The contract includes an escape clause that allows him to leave for a head-coaching or offensive coordinator job with an NFL or Division I team without owing USC the buyout of $30,000-plus per year.

Attempts to reach Wolford have been unsuccessful.

USC coach Steve Spurrier was in New York on Monday for post-Heisman Trophy ceremony activities and unavailable for comment. The Gamecocks are scheduled to begin practice for the Papajohns.com Bowl against Connecticut today.

Some of the early names to surface as possible replacements for Wolford include Syracuse offensive line coach Greg Adkins, who is a former Tennessee assistant, and Vanderbilt offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell.

Caldwell, a Pageland native, twice has turned down overtures from USC, including one last year before Spurrier hired Wolford.

Spurrier did not make any staff hires last year until after the bowl game. His first addition was Wolford, who came to USC from Illinois after Gamecocks receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. mentioned Wolford to his father.

Though the Gamecocks are last in the SEC in rushing for the third year in a row, USC's average rushing yards per game increased 30 yards under Wolford. The Gamecocks have two backs - Kenny Miles and Jarvis Giles - averaging more than 5 yards per carry.

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