A season ago, the South Carolina football team was patching up its offense line seemingly each week in the first half of the year. It seemed as if things might be different in 2017.
They are not.
South Carolina could not make it a full 60 minutes of football with a new starting lineup before another stalwart went down. Guard Cory Helms suffered an ankle injury, sending raw, high-potential former tackle Sadarius Hutcherson into the lineup.
That’s after right tackle Zack Bailey, the top player on the unit, went down against Kentucky and was replaced by Malik Young, who had lost his starting left tackle job to Dennis Daley.
Will Muschamp came away Saturday feeling OK about his front five.
“I thought they did a good job,” Muschamp said. “(Jaylon Ferguson) is a really good player. He’s going to play for a long time, an outstanding football player. But Dennis held up at left tackle. Malik went to right tackle, got a little dinged up, stayed in the game.
“I thought Sadarius did a nice job stepping in. Donell (Stanley) bumping over to the right, Alan (Knott) kind of holding things together.”
Muschamp pointed out that most of USC’s big plays came after that group got a bit more patchwork. He also said Helms is tough enough that if he is able to play next week at Texas A&M, he’ll be on the field.
The line allowed three sacks and three more hurries, but Furgeson, who topped 14 sacks last season, only made one tackle. USC also ran for 5.7 yards a carry, discounting sacks.
The Gamecocks had trouble with some of the quirky looks the Bulldogs threw out, Muschamp said, but Eric Wolford corrected that at halftime. The coach did like how his group moved defensive linemen in the running game.
Bailey’s status remains unclear, and now Helms is in the same boat. For the Aggies next week, it’s uncertain what five will take the field.
But that’s become the norm.
“They did a great job,” USC quarterback Jake Bentley said of Saturday’s performance. “They fight their tails off. They give everything they’ve got.”