SPARTANBURG | South Carolina recruiting analysts and fans are already hailing Brandon Shell as the savior to the team’s offensive line.
The mammoth tackle from Goose Creek has the genes, size and athleticism to become the franchise tackle that college and NFL coaches rave about. Yet, few players given the “franchise” tag play right tackle. It is usually reserved for the left tackles tasked with protecting a quarterback’s blind side.
Shell may eventually fill that role with the Gamecocks, but the transition from right tackle, the position he played in high school, to left tackle may not be an overnight evolution. It was expected to begin this week during practices for Saturday’s Shrine Bowl, but South Carolina coach Mickey Moss and Co. decided to play him where he was most comfortable.
“He’s a run-block tackle,” the coach from Blacksburg said. “Goose Creek runs the football. He was down in a three-point stance most of the time. We talked about [switching him] in our meetings and moving him to more of a two-point stance, but we decided to leave him where he was. Watching him, he’s done a great job on the right side.”
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But that may not be the position the 6-foot-7, 300-pounder is destined to fill.
“With the reach that he has and the wing span, he’s a natural left tackle,” Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy said this fall.
Shell has been a right tackle throughout his prep career. When he transferred to Goose Creek prior to his junior season, Reedy initially moved him to the left side, but it was obvious that Shell wasn’t as comfortable and moved him back just one game into the experiment.
The only downside to putting Shell at right tackle this week is that he’s usually opposite of South Pointe defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in practices. Clowney dominated the South Carolina linemen he faced Monday. None of them rank quite as highly as Shell.
Shell could end up playing left tackle in his second all-star game, the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January. And it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him move to the other tackle in Columbia.
The Gamecocks lack depth at tackle, so Shell could contend for a place on the two-deep depth chart next fall. It’s a tough task to ask a freshman to play left tackle from day one, so offensive line coach Shawn Elliott might choose to play Shell at right tackle while grooming him for an eventual move to the left side.
“It’s really just about my stance,” Shell said. "It’s kind of hard when you start switching up my stance from the right side to the left side. I get off the ball slower from the left side because I haven’t practiced it as much. Once I practice it as much as I have from the right side, I think I’ll be fine.
“[The USC coaches] are going to see which one fits me the best. They are going to try me at left. If I don’t feel comfortable, I’ll play right. I don’t really have a preference. As long as I get to play and help the team, it doesn’t matter which side.”