The Daily Gamecock

Breaking down options for 2017 offensive line

The South Carolina Gamecocks have the makings of a potent offense in 2017. They have a plethora of exciting weapons for their young, talented quarterback Jake Bentley to spread the ball around to. However, none of that will matter if the offensive line can’t fend off what opposing defenses throw at them.

Offensive line coach Eric Wolford was hired early this year after Shawn Elliott became the head coach of Georgia State. Wolford brings NFL pedigree from his time as the 49ers’ offensive line coach, and is familiar with the program from when he coached at USC in 2009. 

Wolford has been working hard to get the offensive line to play at the level he expects. During his media availability in fall camp, he said he still wants to see more explosiveness, but commended his group of guys for working hard in the summer strength and conditioning program.

It sounds as though that hard work is starting to pay off for some of the players, including Donell Stanley, Alan Knott and Cory Helms, saying “their arrows [are] up right now." Wolford seems to have confidence in the interior of his offensive line. 

In addition to Stanley, Knott and Helms, D.J. Park is another player that the coaching staff is excited about. When talking about the guards and centers of the offensive line Muschamp said, “Cory, Alan, Donell, and D.J. have really distanced themselves inside.” 

According to Wolford, these players are the most consistent and play the hardest inside — two traits required of his offensive linemen. Expect to see some combination of these four players at the guard and center spots. 

Even with the emergence of these players, Muschamp is still not completely satisfied with where the backups are at.

“Right now, we need more guys to step up,” Muschamp said. 

As for the two tackle positions, it looks like Malik Young will be the left tackle and Zack Bailey will be the right tackle. Bailey is essentially a lock for the right tackle position barring injuries, but Young has some competition that he will need to fend off to maintain his spot. 

That competition is coming from Dennis Daley, a Columbia native who enrolled at South Carolina this summer, after attending Georgia Military College for two years. Daley has “left tackle ability” according to Wolford, but Young is still ahead of him.

Wolford heaped a great deal of praise on Young and is pleased with his competitiveness -- a trait he covets in his offensive linemen. 

“Malik plays hard. That son of a gun will play hard,” Wolford said. 

If Young keeps up his hard-working attitude and remains consistent, it is likely he will hold onto his spot through the season. 

Wolford is excited by the progress his unit made in the offseason strength and conditioning program, but it sounds like he is far from satisfied, still searching for consistency, explosiveness and depth. 

Wolford has never mentioned having a set group of five starters, and when Will Muschamp was asked about a starting five after a scrimmage, he said the unit was “still moving around.” 

It's hard to determine what the initial offensive line group will be. Between the lines of what the coaches have said, it may be Young at left tackle, Bailey at right tackle, Helms at center and Knott and Stanley will be the guards. This lineup seems set to change throughout the season as the coaches move players around to try to find the best combination.


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