Josh Kendall

‘Detailed. Demanding.’ How Gamecocks’ offensive line coach is pushing right buttons

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp calls offensive line coach Eric Wolford “very demanding,” but Gamecocks fans can’t tell from Wolford’s professorial approach on game days.

“He doesn’t yell and scream on game day. He gets that out during the week,” senior offensive lineman Blake Camper explained.

Wolford’s approach has worked this year for the Gamecocks offensive line, the one unit on the team to consistently draw praise from Muschamp despite juggling its lineup throughout the season. He was announced Wednesday as a candidate for the Broyles Award, given each year to the nation’s top assistant coach.

Wolford, who was Youngstown State’s head coach from 2010-2014, joined South Carolina’s staff in 2017, replacing Shawn Elliott.

“He has a big picture approach,” Muschamp said. “Sometimes offensive line coaches have a very myopic opinion of things. They look at one thing and how it affects five guys. Eric’s been a head coach before. He sees the run game. He sees the pass game. He sees the concepts. He understands defensive structure. I think he’s just very detailed.”

Wolford, like the rest of South Carolina’s assistant coaches, does not speak to the media during the season. He speaks to the players plenty during the week, though.

“His coaching style? If you mess up, he yells,” sophomore guard Sadarius Hutcherson said. “He’ll yell almost every time. At the end of the day, on Saturdays it’s so much easier. He doesn’t yell on Saturday.”

The idea, Camper said, is to make practices harder than games.

“We have a Gamecocks standard, you could say,” Camper said. “The offensive line has a standard for ourselves that we want to play at the highest level we can. His push on us really helps us know the better we play on the practice field the better we play in the game. That’s something he really stresses.”

Center Donell Stanley and guards Hutcherson and Zack Bailey have started every game this season and played almost every snap, but there hasn’t been nearly that kind of stability at offensive tackle. The Gamecocks have started four players at tackle due to injuries and the development of true freshman Dylan Wonnum.

This week, the Gamecocks are preparing for Florida with three of those tackles — Camper, Dennis Daley and Malik Young — slowed by minor injuries. Camper started the season at right tackle but finished last week’s 48-44 win over Ole Miss at left tackle. Wolford has prepared his lineman since the offseason for the possibility of moving around during the season.

“He just really emphasizes that players know different positions. He switches it up certain days of the week. One day you could be at one position, the next day you’re at another,” Camper said. “It helps prepare you for any kind of situation that could happen. I was happy I could go in and play effectively and help the team win. I look forward to this weekend and seeing how it plays out.”

The Gamecocks (5-3 overall, 4-3 SEC) take on No. 19 Florida (6-3, 4-3) on Saturday at noon in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. South Carolina is fourth in the SEC in sacks allowed per game at 1.38, a statistic that will be tested by the blitz-happy Gators, who are third in the conference in sacks per game at 2.56.

The Gamecocks believe Wolford has them prepared.

“When you’re demanding and you get positive results, players respect that,” Muschamp said. “I think he’s got a good balance of being very demanding but also being very fair, and our players understand the results they get.”