During preparation for the Outback Bowl in December, South Carolina coach Will Muschamp talked mostly about sophomore offensive lineman Sadarius Hutcherson’s hair, which does look remarkably like the Bloomin’ Onion served at Outback.
But in the spring, Muschamp was saying something different. He was saying that he was the Gamecocks’ best offensive lineman.
“There was one part of me surprised to hear that and one part of me that thought I worked tremendously hard to get that recognition, but that doesn’t mean anything now,” said Hutcherson, a 6-foot-4, 310-pounder from Huntingdon, Tenn.
Hutcherson seemed an unlikely candidate to earn that moniker. He redshirted in 2016 and only started four games last year. Even when Gamecocks offensive line coach Eric Wolford threw him into the starting lineup because of injury in midseason, Wolford wasn’t convinced Hutcherson was ready.
“But when his opportunity came, he came in and played well. It’s a credit to him and his preparation,” Wolford said. “One thing about Sadarius is he loves football, he’s athletic, he’s strong and he has power. I always felt like he had the potential to be one those guys who could be one of our five best guys.”
Hutcherson remembers that first play well. It was a slide protection, he said.
“That first play I was nervous, and I guess after that first hit you realize, ‘OK, it’s no different than practice,’” he said.
Hutcherson, chiefly a defensive lineman in high school, will start at guard this season.
“My goals for myself are just to be the best player I can be, help lead this team, not just the offensive line but help this team be better than last year,” he said.
Hutcherson’s development probably cost senior Malik Young a spot on this year’s offensive line, but Young still speaks glowingly of the only underclassman expected to start on South Carolina’s offensive line this fall.
“Sadarius proved himself to be a really good player, and he has a lot of years left,” Young said. “I really feel like he’s going to be a really, really good player. That’s all he needed was to go out there and get his confidence going. He’s strong. He’s quick. He takes care of his body. He’s going to go to bed early, wake up on time, eat the right things and stuff like that.”