COLUMBIA, S.C. – Lance Thompson knows the work cut out for him in coaching South Carolina’s defensive line.
But while he seeks to find the right combination of players and, hopefully, the depth he covets, he’s well aware of one of the benefits he has in going against the Gamecocks offensive line on a daily basis.
“This is a real deal offensive line,” Thompson said. “These guys are good.”
In more comments about “real deals,” Thompson mentioned specifically senior tackle Mason Zandi, junior tackle D.J. Park and sophomore guard Donell Stanley. He also mentioned junior center Alan Knott, who is working back from an injury still, but could be the starting center in a line that also features guard Zack Bailey and interior lineman Cory Helms.
“They’re big. They’re physical. They’re good kids. They’re hard-nosed,” Thompson said. “All those guys. To me, that’s the best thing about our situation right now. Every day, we are competing against a really good SEC offensive line.”
Knott holds the most starts among the offensive linemen, bringing back 17 total starts, while Zandi has 10 starts to his name at right tackle. Bailey brings back five, split between left guard and center, while Helms made 23 starts at Wake Forest in his two years as a Demon Deacon before transferring to South Carolina.
And it’s an opportunity Thompson is not taking lightly throughout fall camp, as he seeks out 10 players that he feels comfortable playing on Saturdays this fall.
“(If) we can perform at a high level consistently against these guys, then we are going to be okay when we get to Saturdays,” Thompson said. “That part has really been beneficial. (Offensive line coach) Shawn (Elliott) has been great. We’ve had a lot of drills against each other. That does nothing but make our guys better.”
Mike Wilson covers South Carolina athletics for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on the Gamecocks.