Quietly, Donell Stanley has been planning to be South Carolina’s next starting center for a year or so now.
While speculation about who would replace Alan Knott in the middle of the Gamecocks offensive line centered around Chandler Farrell or even true freshman Hank Manos, Stanley had been told by offensive line coach Eric Wolford to expect the job to be his.
“Wolf was telling me all along that he was depending on me playing center,” said Stanley, a 6-foot-3, 318-pound junior from Floydale. “He said it’d be good for my career so it was something I always studied but never actually did.”
As in, ever in a game. Not at Latta High School and not in his first three seasons at South Carolina. Stanley was able to reclassify as a junior this year because of a medical redshirt from the 2016 season. He started all 13 games at guard last year. Now he’s learning a new position.
“It’s kind of a work in progress,” he said. “I’m comfortable now with all my plays, but it’s my first time playing it so I still have some hiccups.”
Specifically, he still sends about one shotgun snap per practice sailing over quarterback Jake Bentley’s head, he said.
Coach Will “Muschamp chews me out,” Stanley said with a laugh.
All the new responsibilities at center are no laughing matter, though.
“At center, you’re like the leader of the offensive line so you have to be vocal, you have to know pretty much what everybody has got on every play, so that’s something I’ve been working on and I think I’m getting pretty good at it,” Stanley said. “I see myself getting better out there every day. Just getting the feel of it.”
Once the ball is snapped, everything moves faster at center because of the time it takes to execute the snap, Stanley said.
“You have to do everything so much faster,” he said.
The occasional bad snap notwithstanding, Stanley is doing a nice job with the transition, Bentley said.
“Donnie’s done a great job,” the quarterback said. “He’s picked up where Alan left off. He’s very smart and really doing a great job for us.”