South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp has no idea how the Gamecocks offensive line is perceived around college football.
“I know how we feel in the building,” Muschamp said. “We have a lot of confidence in those guys and how they are playing. We felt like that would be a strong suit of ours going into the year and it certainly has panned out that way.”
That outside perception improved after Saturday’s 56-35 loss to No. 2 Clemson. The Gamecocks (6-5) gained 600 yards against the Tigers second-ranked defense, which boasts one of the most star-studded defensive lines in college football history.
“Them having the amount of talent they have on their defense and us handling them like we did is awesome, but we have to keep going,” senior guard Zack Bailey said.
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South Carolina will finish the regular season against Akron (4-7) on Saturday at noon in Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks have allowed 18 sacks this season, their lowest total in at least 10 seasons. Muschamp’s first two offensive lines at South Carolina gave up 70 sacks. The Gamecocks are averaging 4.58 yards per carry, their highest average since 2013.
“I think we’re one of the best offensive lines that’s been here,” guard Sadarius Hutcherson said. “I think we’re one of the best offensive lines in the nation.”
Hutcherson, Bailey and center Donell Stanley have started every game this season and that continuity has been a boost for Gamecocks front. Left tackle Dennis Daley has started all but one game, and freshman Dylan Wonnum has started the last five games at right tackle.
“It’s been great to have the same guys up there all year,” quarterback Jake Bentley said. “We challenged the offensive line going through (Clemson) week that if we were going to have a successful day they were going to have to have a great day and they did that. Really gave us a chance to win all game.”
Muschamp expects three of the Tigers four defensive line starters to be first round NFL Draft picks, and all four are expected to have pro careers.
“In my mind I think we won (the line of scrimmage),” Hutcherson said. “A lot of people think the other won, but it doesn’t matter to me as long as we do our job.”
Either way, the Gamecocks offensive linemen proved themselves against the Tigers.
“I think we did. I really think we did,” Hutcherson said. “We spent a lot of time in the film room. Studying each move, how their formations are, we spent a lot of time in the weight room, getting stronger every day, making sure we were prepared.”