If the South Carolina offense plans to keep scoreboard operators busy this fall, Jake Bentley needs a little more time.
The sophomore quarterback was sacked 25 times in seven games last season. Though he admits some of those sacks were his fault, 3.6 sacks per game is not good for business, no matter who is to blame.
In Will Muschamp’s first season as coach, Gamecocks quarterbacks were sacked 41 times. Only eight other FBS teams allowed more.
Reducing that number was among the issues first-year offensive line coach Eric Wolford was asked to resolve when hired for a second stint in Columbia.
Muschamp has an optimistic outlook on the position as a whole, in part because the 98 returning starts among offensive linemen is a pretty hefty sum.
“I think we made a lot of improvements, really challenged [the players] as far as their strength is concerned,” Muschamp said. “But we have competition at both tackle spots and inside.”
One of Wolford’s first moves was to slide Zack Bailey from left guard to right tackle. The Gamecocks’ top offensive lineman started every game last season after landing SEC All-Freshman honors as a center. With a strong junior season, Bailey could depart early for the NFL.
Junior Malik Young, who started the final nine games in 2016 at right tackle, flipped to left tackle, where he competed in the spring against redshirt freshman Sadarius Hutcherson. Hutcherson, a defensive end and tight end in high school, is still learning how to play along the offensive line, but folks inside the program are excited about his upside.
The starting left guard spot is up for grabs between junior Donell Stanley and senior D.J. Park, both of whom made early-season starts at right guard in 2016. Stanley played in the opener against Vanderbilt, but his season ended after the first series because of a high-ankle sprain.
Senior center Alan Knott leads all returning South Carolina players with 29 career starts for the Gamecocks. He’s backed up by senior Cory Helms, the first-team right guard who started every game in 2016 after sitting out the previous season because he transferred from Wake Forest. Helms also started 23 games for the Demon Deacons.
Three other scholarship players are back in 2017, including junior Blake Camper, who’s listed as the second-team right tackle. Redshirt sophomore Trey Derouen and redshirt freshman Will Putnam are also in the mix.
Among the first-year players is junior college transfer Dennis Daley, a junior, who could compete for time at tackle. Earlier this summer, Daley and freshman Eric Douglas joined Summie Carlay, who enrolled in January.
At last check, tackles Jordon Carty and Jordan Rhodes were both working to gain qualifying status academically.
Official roster listing
- (51) Cory Helms (6-4, 309) – RS Senior
- (70) Alan Knott (6-4, 290) – RS Senior
- (69) D.J. Park (6-4, 337) – Senior
- (72) Donell Stanley (6-4, 317) – RS Junior
- (77) Malik Young (6-3, 303) – RS Junior
- (78) Zack Bailey (6-6, 311) – Junior
- (63) Blake Camper (6-8, 310) – Junior
- (74) Dennis Daley (6-6, 330) – Junior ***
- (79) Trey Derouen (6-4, 307) – RS Sophomore
- (55) Christian Pellage (6-6, 296) – RS Sophomore
- (50) Sadarius Hutcherson (6-4, 316) – RS Freshman
- (66) Will Putnam (6-5, 299) – RS Freshman
- (71) Eric Douglas (6-4, 308) – Freshman ***
- (73) Summie Carlay (6-5, 281) – Freshman ***
- (75) Jordon Carty (6-7, 299) – Freshman ***
- (76) Jordan Rhodes (6-5, 318) – Freshman ***
*** Designates first-year player