The Daily Gamecock

Shell leads healthy mix of veterans and newcomers on reshuffled offensive line


The offensive line will have some changes in the 2015 season, especially with All-American guard A.J. Cann and left tackle Corey Robinson having graduated to the pros. After an average 2014, the offensive line looks to get back to its typical good form.

Multiple injuries plagued the 2014 line — the source of some of their problems. Redshirt senior Mike Matulis will be back this season. Matulis has missed much of his college career due to injuries and surgeries. He only played against Furman and Tennessee and then missed the remainder of the 2014 season due to a surgery on his left knee. If the recent surgery worked and Matulis is able to stay healthy, he will most likely start at left guard, though he can also play tackle.

Redshirt junior Cody Waldrop will also be returning this season after undergoing offseason knee surgery. Waldrop stepped in as right guard when Matulis was injured but received limited playing time due to his own injury. So far, Waldrop looks strong and ready for play on the interior of the line.

Experienced redshirt senior Brandon Shell will start at left tackle this year to help protect the quarterback. Shell is the most experienced lineman on the team, starting in every game last season for a career total of 36 times and bringing a streak of 35 consecutive starts into the 2015 season. He will be able to give the young players some advice and help them along the way while giving the quarterback the best possible opportunity to score.

“He probably would’ve had a shot in the NFL, but he realizes he can play a lot better than he played last year,” South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said of Shell. “He’s physically stronger and quicker than he was last year.”

The offensive line will have a few freshmen looking for playing time this year.

“[The freshmen] haven’t played yet, so we’ll reserve a lot of praise for them until they start playing in a real game,” Spurrier said. “They have excellent attitudes. They hang around together and are all fine young men.”

Blake Camper, a three-star prospect, will compete for a tackle position while four-star prospect and highly regarded in-state lineman Zack Bailey will try for time at the offensive guard position. Three-star recruit Christian Pellage will also look for time at tackle. These fresh faces will hopefully give the offensive line the depth the Gamecocks lacked a season ago.

Offensive line coach Shawn Elliott will return for his sixth year as coach. Elliott is very pleased to have many of his veterans back after various injuries. With Matulis and Waldrop seemingly healthy and ready to go, they can give Elliott the experience and talent he needs on the line. Shell also sat out of spring practice recovering from an offseason shoulder surgery, but he’s ready to go for the season. Health will be a huge component in this group’s success. If they can get through the season with minimal injuries, they should have a solid, strong line.

Besides trying to stay healthy, the offensive line will have to work to protect quarterback Connor Mitch, who got the nod to start against UNC in the season opener. This will be Mitch’s first career start, whichcould provide some struggles for the line.

There may be some changes, but with the veterans coming back healthier and stronger than before — and a few fresh faces — the offensive line should be better off in the long run.