Rick Sandidge got what most freshmen ask for with South Carolina football last season.
He came in at a position that often requires some development and played anyway. It started out a little slow, but as the season went on and injuries mounted, he was getting regular rotation work down the stretch.
That’s a solid way to start a career, but getting thrown in like that, it highlighted the area he has to work on fine-tuning.
“The part we’re all working on as a group is to improve fundamentally with our technique, getting our hand placement right, coming out of our hips, having our eyes right,” new defensive tackles coach John Scott said. “Those are the type of things that all young guys sometimes when you get thrown in the fray, you just go in there and you play ball, those are the things that sometimes they slip.”
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The new coach went through Sandidge’s cutups, taking note of his strength and how hard he plays. When he smooths out those factors, things could start to open up even more.
Sandidge was the top-rated player in his USC recruiting class, the No. 141 player in the land by the 247 Sports composite rankings. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound tackle from North Carolina turned down Georgia late in the process, becoming part of South Carolina’s push to add blue-chip talent to the front.
As a true freshman, he saw 30-plus snaps in some of the games late in the season. He finished with 19 tackles, with half a sack.
The Gamecocks took a step back up front last season, with tackles Taylor Stallworth and Ulric Jones and end Dante Sawyer moving on, plus D.J. Wonnum being sidelined most of the season. Only a few linemen came through the season completely unscathed, and South Carolina’s run defense slipped badly.
Now the group has a small army of talent back, with Wonnum, Javon Kinlaw, Keir Thomas, Kobe Smith and others. Sandidge won’t have an easy path to a lot of playing time, but if he plays to his talent, he could thrive.
That starts with a spring where Kinlaw is out, and it starts with sanding down those freshman habits.
“It’s just getting him better, fundamentally as well as the whole group.” Scott said. “If you do all that and you play hard and play physical, the game will slow down for you, it will be easy for you.”