Two veterans are switching positions. Another is switching to a different side of the football altogether. As South Carolina starts its third spring football practice under coach Will Muschamp, the Gamecocks offensive line is a work in progress.
“It’s about getting the best five on the field,” Muschamp said Tuesday on the eve of his team’s first spring practice.
For now, that means senior Dennis Daley at left tackle, senior Zack Bailey at left guard, junior Donell Stanley at center, sophomore Sadarius Hutcherson at right guard and senior Blake Camper at right tackle. For Bailey, it’s a position change but a familiar one. He started eight games at tackle last year and 13 at guard in 2016.
“Right now, moving Zack inside is the best for us,” Muschamp said. “Certainly, could go back to tackle if need be.”
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Stanley is a making a position change as well as a class change. He was granted an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA because of an injury sustained earlier in his career, so he’s a junior this year, and he’ll open spring practice as Alan Knott’s replacement at center. Stanley started 12 games last year.
Camper has only four career starts, but Muschamp thinks he’s up for the task of starting on the edge.
“He had a really good offseason, and I was pleased with his play last year,” Muschamp said.
The tentative starting offensive line has a combined 58 career starts.
“All five of those guys have played good football for us, and all have very good leadership capabilities,” Muschamp said. “I have been pleased to this point, now we need to continue to press forward.”
The only other offensive lineman with any starts, senior Malik Young, will be a defensive lineman this spring. Young, 6-3, 292 pounds, has started 13 games, including the season-opener at left tackle last year, but will be evaluated this spring to see if he can provide depth at defensive tackle.
“We only have Kobe (Smith) and Javon (Kinlaw) as far as mainstays up front inside” on the defensive line, Muschamp said. “We don’t have a lot of quality experience behind that, so we are going to see how that goes.”
Young’s move will make the development of South Carolina’s inexperienced offensive linemen – a group that includes veterans like juniors Trey Derouen and Christian Pellage and redshirt freshmen like Eric Douglas, Jordan Rhodes, Summie Carlay and Jordan Carty – critical this spring.
Muschamp listed depth at offensive line as one of his two biggest areas of concern (along with safety) entering spring practice.
“We have to have some guys come along,” he said.