COLUMBIA, S.C. – Zack Bailey claims he isn’t being put on his behind when going against the defensive line these days in practices, but that isn’t to say the South Carolina sophomore offensive lineman isn’t seeing the improvement when he goes against the unit.
“We are going at it,” Bailey said. “We have a bunch of new guys coming in. Everyone is getting rotations. We are having a blast out there and getting at it.”
The Gamecocks had just 20 sacks in 2015, ranking No. 11 in the Southeastern Conference. But through the first couple days of practices, senior offensive tackle Mason Zandi has seen an increased level of play from the unit as a whole.
He pointed to a lot of growth and maturity, both as individuals and as football players, that led to the change.
“I think a lot of those guys have really elevated their play in the offseason,” Zandi said. “Coach (Lance) Thompson and his staff have done a phenomenal job. I really appreciate those guys helping us out through the season and getting our mentality in a different zone and getting us more mentally tough.
“Definitely, those guys are head and shoulders better.”
South Carolina returns some experience from last season, mainly with defensive end Marquavius Lewis. Defensive tackles Kelsey Griffin and Taylor Stallworth are expected to step up on the interior of the defensive line, while the second defensive end spot – a hybrid linebacker position – could go one of a few different ways in 2016.
“Everyone is doing great right now,” Bailey said.
Mike Wilson covers South Carolina athletics for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on the Gamecocks.