In college football parlance, Jovaughn Gwyn was asked to wait.
The guard on South Carolina’s offensive line went through much of the offseason seeming to get No. 1 reps as the Gamecocks’ right guard. But when the first depth chart came out, he’d been jumped by veteran Eric Douglas.
In college sports, early setbacks often knock kids back. Look no farther than the rash of first- and second-year players in the transfer portal.
Gwyn isn’t the most chatty guy, but he explained how he responded to the setback of sorts.
“I just put it out of mind and said I’ll keep working,” Gwyn said. “I’ll get my shot.”
It didn’t take long. The offensive line struggled against UNC. Gwyn replaced Douglas. He hasn’t given up the spot since.
Gwyn admitted there were some hard times since arriving on campus. He impressed the staff early, enough to get mop-up work as a true freshman in his first game. But a foot injury ended his season soon after.
He had to work back through the offseason, playing catch up and trying to pick up the finer points of the scheme. So when the opportunity arrived in Week 2, it wasn’t as if he felt self-assured it would go 100% smoothly.
“You have a little nervous feeling because the only time I played in a game was last year,” Gwyn said. “So just that little nervous feeling that you don’t want to mess up and stuff like that, but once you play you just lean on your training.”
He’s done a good job thus far, and some pre-college training helps factor in there.
Against Kentucky, the Gamecocks relied even more heavily than usual on a base run play, the down-around pin-and-pull sweep. That requires interior linemen, especially guards, to get out as pullers.
Because of the way Kentucky plays defense, that meant a lot of Jordan Rhodes and Gwyn pulling out into space. Gwyn said it was similar to what he was asked to do in a high school Wing-T offense at Harding in North Carolina, so the tempo was the main thing he had to adapt to.
Having a player as strong and mobile as Gwyn opens some things up with the pin-and-pull, and that’s allowed the Gamecocks to “major” in it at times, in coach Will Muschamp’s words.
“You’ve got to have guys that are athletic pullers and that can block guys in space,” Muschamp said. “Because it’s easier said than done as far as when you’re pulling and you weigh over 300 pounds and you’re blocking, generally, a guy that’s moving in space.
“I think we’ve recruited well up front. Our guys are more athletic. They’re able to anchor in contact, in space on people, and that’s been just something that’s been productive for us.”