Despite having to replace 40 percent of its offensive line, including All-American A.J. Cann, South Carolina will start an experienced group up front in Thursday’s season opener against North Carolina in Charlotte.
The Gamecocks are expected to begin the year with Brandon Shell, Mike Matulis, Alan Knott, Will Sport and Mason Zandi as starters on the offensive line. The unit has combined for 67 starts and features three redshirt seniors, a redshirt junior and a redshirt sophomore.
USC offensive line coach Shawn Elliott said it certainly helps starting the season with experience up front.
“It’s a good thing,” he said. “They’ve played a lot of reps. They have a lot of contests under their belt.”
Elliott added that opening the year at a neutral site against an ACC opponent is no easy task, but he doesn’t expect his group to get overwhelmed by the atmosphere or the moment.
“They feel comfortable in that setting. They’re not overwhelmed with the crowd,” he said. “It’s pleasing going in knowing that they’ve played meaningful snaps in meaningful games.”
Shell is expected to anchor the offensive line from the left tackle position. The redshirt senior has started 36 games in his career, mostly at right tackle, but is sliding over to the left side to replace Corey Robinson.
Matulis, who will start at left guard, said he has confidence in the fellow redshirt senior.
“He’s controlling. He’s a real team leader. He controls the line, controls tempo,” Matulis said. “It’s a good thing to follow him. He’s had what, 30 something starts? He’s a good guy to play behind.”
Matulis is hopeful that the left side of the offensive line will open up holes for running backs Brandon Wilds, David Williams and Shon Carson throughout the year.
“I think we can move. There’s a lot of stuff that we could do better, but I think right now we’re doing well,” he said. “We work well together. Me and (Brandon) Shell are pretty good friends and I love playing next to him.”