Josh Kendall

South Carolina offensive front needs to come of age in a hurry

dmclemore@thestate.com

South Carolina starts its first practice under Will Muschamp on March 15. The State will take the 15 days of the month leading up to that to look at 15 “keys” for the Gamecocks as they prepare for Muschamp’s first season. This is No. 8.

The offensive line class that Steve Spurrier was so excited about should be coming of age this spring.

Several times last season, Spurrier mentioned how impressed he was with at least the bulk of Zack Bailey (6-foot-6, 320 pounds), Blake Camper (6-8, 295), Trey Derouen (6-3, 314) and Christian Pellage (6-6, 314), and the quartet came to Columbia with plenty of accolades. ESPN rated both Bailey and Pellage four-star prospects.

Bailey drew the most praise from offensive line coach Shawn Elliott last year but Pellage and Camper also played, which is praise enough when it comes to true freshmen offensive linemen. That experience will come in handy now that South Carolina must replace three offensive line starters from a year ago – tackle Brandon Shell and guards Will Sport and Mike Matulis.

Center Alan Knott and tackle Mason Zandi are the only returning starters up front and probably will hold onto those positions. What South Carolina’s new staff must determine is if veteran backups such as Malik Young, Donell Stanley and D.J. Park are next in line or if the youngsters are ready for their turn. Wake Forest transfer Cory Helms, a junior interior lineman, also officially enters the competition this spring, which should give Elliott, the only holdover from the Spurrier staff, plenty to think about this spring.

Offensive line

The departure of Brandon Shell, Mike Matulis and Will Sport leaves three starting spots up for grabs. Sophomore Zack Bailey is the odds-on favorite to win the open job at guard unless he unseats Alan Knott as the starting center. Wake Forest transfer Cory Helms, a former collegiate starter, also could be tough to keep out of the middle of the offensive line. Young tackles Blake Camper and Christian Pellage will get a chance to start as well. D.J. Park and Donell Stanley need to emerge this spring to avoid being jumped in the pecking order.

▪ Mason Zandi, Sr., 6-8, 303

▪ Cory Helms, Jr., 6-4, 303

▪ Alan Knott, Jr., 6-4, 268

▪ D.J. Park, Jr., 6-4, 323

▪ Zack Bailey, So., 6-6, 326

▪ Blake Camper, So., 6-7, 293

▪ Christian Pellage, So., 6-7, 300

▪ Donell Stanley, So., 6-3, 326

▪ Malik Young, So., 6-4, 298

▪ Trey Derouen, Fr., 6-3, 310

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