Josh Kendall

In search of best 5, Gamecocks still shuffling up front on offense

Preseason camp may seem to college football fans to last forever, but there’s at least one man in Columbia for whom the next four weeks will go by quickly – South Carolina offensive line coach Eric Wolford.

On a Gamecocks offense that seems to have a lot of answers, Wolford faces a lot of questions.

“We are not settled at all across the line,” South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp said. “What is going to be our best combination of five? Who is the sixth and seventh and eighth? Those are some things we need to find out quickly in camp.”

Wolford is the man in charge of figuring out those things, hired in the offseason to replace longtime offensive line coach Shawn Elliott.

He seemed to settle on a tentative starting five during spring practice with Malik Young at left tackle, either Donnell Stanely or D.J. Park at left guard, Alan Knott at center, Cory Helms at right tackle and Zack Bailey at right guard, but Muschamp made the front five seem much less set when he addressed the media last week.

“We are not set on who is going to play right tackle or left tackle,” Muschamp said. “I think Zack had a really good spring at right tackle, (but) we are going to find the best combination of five guys. If that means moving Zack back inside, that’s what we will do.”

Along with the first five, the names to watch in South Carolina’s offensive line competition are 6-foot-6, 330-pound junior college transfer Dennis Daley, backup left tackle Sadarius Hutcherson and backup right tackle Blake Camper.

“I feel good about my spot,” said Hutcherson, a redshirt freshman. “He told me if I practice hard, he’s going to find a place for me to play. Right now, they have me switching between left guard and left tackle because I’m athletic enough to play any position.”

Young will go to practice every day this preseason believing his spot is up for grabs, he said.

“I always will feel like it’s a competition,” he said. “Every day that’s how it is; that’s how we run things around here; nobody’s position is safe. We are all starting from the beginning standpoint. I come into every practice thinking my position is on the line. That just keeps me motivated, keeps me working hard.”

However the competition ends, Young believes the group will outplay its expectations.

“We have talked about it amongst ourselves,” he said. “We are going to be something special this year. We kind of own the fact that we have to be the leaders on the team. We don’t do a whole lot of talking. We base everything off our production on the field.”

The deadline looming for the South Carolina offensive line is Sept. 2, when its goes up against N.C. State, which has one of the nation’s best defensive lines.

“I take that as a challenge, but I look forward to it because I feel like you can only be good if you go against the best,” Young said. “I wouldn’t want to go against somebody who is not good and have a good game. I’d rather have a good game against somebody who is really good. We play a pretty good game on them and it lets us know how good we are. They are good, they are really good, but we’re going to be a good o-line.”

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