Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu took off toward the sideline, and Sandidge followed. All 285 pounds of Sandidge trucked after him, eventually pulling him down along with T.J. Brunson.
That’s how Sandidge, a four-star freshman regarded as USC’s highest-rated 2018 signee, notched his first career sack.
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“It gave me a little rush,” Thomas said. “I got to the sideline, like, ‘Dang, you got your first one.’ The whole group was proud of him. Everybody was excited.”
Thomas was once in a similar position, a first-year tackle in the rotation. Thomas was there because the team was short on bodies. Sandidge has a few more players in front of him, so his snaps have been harder to come by.
But he’s done what was needed to earn them just the same.
“It’s really difficult, especially for bigger guys because generally bigger guys in high school are able to out-muscle, out-girth smaller players,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “And they don’t face guys as big as them week-in and week-out on the line of scrimmage, or day-in, day-out in practice. So it starts, in my opinion, with big guys, on either side of the ball, on offense or defense, is understanding every single day, packing your lunch and coming to practice and having to practice at a really, really high level.”
That’s not an easy adjustment, but Sandidge is in the process of making it. He didn’t arrive on campus that way, but he’s grown into it.
For the season, he has seven tackles, 1 ½ for loss. He’s working behind the veteran trio of Javon Kinlaw, Thomas and Kobe Smith and alongside fellow freshman Kingsley Enagbare.
Muschamp said Sandidge has also improved his knowledge of the game and his lower body flexibility, something the staff prizes in bigger guys.
The top-150 national recruit from just north of Charlotte pushed his recruitment right to the end before officially picking USC. Early in his career, he was a pass rusher off the edge, but he filled out and was destined to play the interior.
He brought to Columbia something beyond those physical skills, something Muschamp considers extremely valuable.
“He’s a very eager young man to learning to do it right,” Muschamp said. “He’s a pleaser. He wants to please. That’s a very good quality for really good players.”