South Carolina’s search for a new starting left tackle might be short. In fact, it might be over.
Junior Sadarius Hutcherson started spring practice at the position for the Gamecocks, and offensive line coach Eric Wolford thinks Hutcherson is going to stay there.
“I’m expecting him to be the left tackle right now, but nothing is ever guaranteed in this game,” Wolford said.
Hutcherson has been pretty close, though. The 6-foot-4, 320-pound Tennessean has played in 23 of the 26 games of his collegiate career, starting 17 of them, including every game last year at right guard. When Dennis Daley’s graduation left South Carolina without a starter at the offensive line’s marquee position, Hutcherson was the first choice to attempt the job.
Through the first four practices of the spring, he has validated that choice.
“He’s trained there in the past. It’s not like it’s anything new for him,” Wolford said. “I expect him to do well. We believe in the guy. So far he’s done well and hopefully he’ll continue.”
Hutcherson is one the Gamecocks’ top performers in the weight room and also boasts a vertical jump of 31.5 inches, which would have been the sixth-highest jump among offensive linemen at the NFL Combine this year.
“That’s pretty good for an offensive lineman,” Wolford said.
The transition has been “difficult at times” and “fun at times,” Hutcherson said.
“With Dennis Daley leaving I was pretty sure I was going to move over there,” he said. “I had to get used to it a little bit getting into it. I’m pretty sure my skill set will fit in. Wolf does a great job of making us learn stuff like that, especially in the film room.”
Run blocking in the position will be no problem for Hutcherson, who is accustomed to the more physical positions on the inside of the offensive line. Pass blocking is the bigger challenge for players making the position change.
“Pass pro could be a little harder because you don’t get any help,” he said. “It’s different because now you are more on an island, pretty much by yourself.”
Right tackle Dylan Wonnum, sophomore Eric Douglas and early enrollee freshman Jaylen Nichols will also get work at left tackle this spring to build depth at the position.
“Our mentality is, Dennis was a great player, he’s gone on to the next level and we expect the next guy to do the same thing and play at a higher level,” Wolford said. “I want Hutch to play better than Dennis. I want Hutch to get drafted higher than Dennis. That’s all of our mentality, and that’s the way it should be. We want to keep getting better.”