South Carolina offensive lineman Blake Camper looks back on the 2015 season and sees a silver lining.
At a position where redshirting is the norm, Camper, Zack Bailey and Christian Pellage all saw playing time their first seasons. That experience, as well as the return of offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, will be a boon for the line this season, Camper said.
“I loved it,” Camper said. “Learning the plays was the most important thing. These plays we’re running right now aren’t too far off from what we learned last year.”
Bailey, Camper and Pellage were among the two-deep on the depth chart for most of the 2015 season. While Bailey started five games, Camper and Pellage were used mostly on extra points.
The 6-foot-7, 293-pound Camper made one start, at right tackle against The Citadel, after an injury to Mason Zandi.
The progress for the three now-sophomores is evident this spring, Elliott said.
“I think all of them have taken a step forward,” Elliott said. “You see the difference between Blake Camper this year and last year? Physically, maturity wise, intellectually, all of the above.”
Camper, from Virginia Beach, Va., has rotated between first- and second-team right tackle. While there’s been considerable mixing and matching across the line this spring, Zandi and Cory Helms have been mainstays in the first unit. The two more experienced lineman are mentors to the others, Camper said.
The entire group has been affected – in a good way – by the faster tempo of the offense.
“It’s getting us in better shape, making us think quicker,” Camper said. “In those tough two-minute drills at the end of games, we’re going to be in those tight situations where we’re going to have to go fast. They’re really trying in instill the mentality of quickness.”
Camper’s goals this spring are simple: get better, avoid injury, learn the playbook and stay out of trouble.
“I think I’m doing pretty well right now,” he said. “I’m definitely a lot more calm than I was last year. Coach Elliott has helped me out with that and helped me feel more comfortable in the position.”