USC Gamecocks Football

He got thrown in the fire as a true freshman. The progress he showed Gamecock coaches

Hank Manos was given a tall order at the end of South Carolina’s football season.

The freshman from Chapin High School had hardly played. He’d got some time at guard as Chandler Ferrell was the team’s center when other interior linemen got hurt. But in the bowl game against Virginia, he was tasked with starting at center.

He admitted he battled nerves but got through those, and then got this spring to build on the experience.

Well, part of the spring.

“Unfortunately, he got rolled up on pretty good one day,” Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said. “But I thought he played well at the center position. He started the bowl game for us and didn’t blink.”

South Carolina’s offensive line is always a question in terms of who plays where because of the habit of working players at multiple spots. But signs point to Manos being the top candidate to start in the middle.

When healthy he worked there with the first team in open practice periods. Last year’s starter, Donell Stanley said he was moving back to guard to open things up for Manos.

The former wrestling state champion came to South Carolina a semester early, and had to work to change his body coming out of that sport with its weight limits. He was up around 20 pounds by the middle of spring.

Eric Douglas started at center in the spring game, though he’ has the ability to be a utility lineman and play just about anywhere. The Gamecocks could also likely shift Stanley back inside if needed.

But Muschamp sounded upbeat about Manos’ work in spring, injury-limited or not. The player he trusted to make his first start in a bowl game seems to have more room to grow going forward.

“I think he’s a guy that progressed and continues to work,” Muschamp said. “He’s got the right kind of mentality and work ethic and the right kind of edge. I’ve very pleased with his progress.”