Hale McGranahan/SEC Country
The Gamecocks are counting on former JUCO DE Javon Kinlaw to boost their pass rush in 2017.

How the Gamecocks plan to improve, build depth in the trenches

Welcome to SEC Country’s Chicken & Waffles, your daily dish for all things South Carolina Gamecocks football, basketball and more. Miss a previous edition? Find every edition of SEC Country’s South Carolina Gamecocks Chicken & Waffles right here.

South Carolina fans have got to be feeling pretty good about the skill positions heading into the 2017 season.

With QB Jake Bentley behind center, handing off to a deep, talented group of running back and throwing passes to an athletic group of receivers and tight ends, what’s not to like?

C Alan Knott (No. 70) should anchor the USC offensive line in 2017 (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

As exciting as those players might be, games in the SEC are won and lost in the trenches – and coach Will Muschamp and his staff are well aware of this.

“Pass rushers. If there’s any out there, come on, come to South Carolina,” Muschamp said following the Gamecocks’ 46-39 loss to USF in the Birmingham Bowl.

The coaching staff has put a premium on pass rushers and offensive line talent. Just look at the players the Gamecocks signed in February.

RELATED: Will Muschamp’s plea for pass rushers to come to South Carolina was heard 

From defensive ends Javon Kinlaw and Aaron Sterling to offensive tackles Eric Douglas and Dennis Daley, Carolina is focused on getting talent and depth in the trenches for the future. In fact, the prospects discussed below might have a thing or two to say about that…

Ericson on options

Warren Ericson-South Carolina
Three-star OG Warren Ericson has a number of SEC schools after his services (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

Warren Ericson, the No. 17 offensive guard in the Class of 2018, detailed his SEC options with Hale McGranahan on Wednesday, chatting up South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama.

RELATED: More on the Gamecocks’ Atlanta-area OL targets 

“They kind of have their own selling point, for sure,” Ericson said of the Crimson Tide. “They don’t have to send you a bunch of envelopes in the mail, to convince you to go there. They show you the facts. They’re going to win wherever they go and they’re going to work hard and they’re going to get it done.”

McGranahan said it best, “While the Gamecocks are one of the primary options, they certainly aren’t the only one.”

‘Close to home, great program’

Jabari Ellis-South Carolina
Three-star DT Jabari Ellis lists South Carolina and NC State as his favorites (Hale McGranahan/SEC Country)

Three-star JUCO DT Jabari Ellis recently named the Gamecocks as one of his two favorites – drawn by USC’s proximity to his hometown (Santee, S.C.) and its coaching staff.

RELATED: Top 10 JUCO prospect Jabari Ellis very interested in South Carolina 

“They mainly just talk to me about coming in and doing everything I want as a player, developing my game and hopefully having a career after college, going to the NFL,” said Ellis when discussing USC. “Close to home, great program. I actually like the coaching staff.”

Ellis is rated as the No. 9 overall JUCO prospect in the 2018 recruiting class according to the 247Sports composite.

DT heads to NYC

Devin Taylor is joining fellow ex-Gamecock Jerell Adams in the Big Apple.

The Giants signed the former South Carolina defensive end on Wednesday afternoon.

A fourth-round pick in 2013, Taylor had 11.5 sacks in his last two season with the Lions.

Spurs down

Mark Alstork-South Carolina-South Carolina basketball
Former Wright State G Mark Alstork will be joining the Illini next season (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Wright State graduate transfer G Mark Alstork announced his transfer destination on Wednesday afternoon and, unfortunately, Illinois was the pick.

RELATED: 2 SEC teams miss out on former Wright State G Mark Alstork as graduate transfer 

“On Wednesday, Alstork picked Illinois over LSU, South Carolina and Pittsburgh, as relayed by The Advocate’s Sheldon Mickles,” reports Andrew Astleford. “The 6-foot-5, 190-pound guard averaged 19 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season. He also considered Dayton, Georgetown and Louisville before eliminating those programs from consideration.”

Inking Alstork would’ve gone a long way in helping the Gamecocks fill the void left by departing guards PJ Dozier, Sindarius Thornwell, Justin McKie and Duane Notice.

The Gamecocks still have plenty of reinforcements coming to campus, including former Delaware G Kory Holden and incoming freshmen David Beatty and Justin Minaya, among others.

Baseball falls

Chad Holbrook and the Gamecocks are desperate for a win on Thursday if they hope to make the NCAA Tournament (Mike Wilson/SEC Country)

The Gamecocks couldn’t sustain the magic in Birmingham, losing 7-3 to No. 3-seeded Kentucky on Wednesday afternoon.

RELATED: South Carolina baseball falls to Kentucky in SEC Tournament 

South Carolina jumped ahead 2-0 early, but the Wildcats’ bats woke up shortly thereafter.

“A three-run, bases-clearing double from Kentucky’s Evan White in the sixth inning blew the game open for the Wildcats, who already led 3-2 going into the frame,” writes Mike Wilson.

South Carolina will face Missouri in an elimination game on Thursday afternoon.

A-Town bound

Former South Carolina goalkeeper Brad Guzan (2003-04) is headed stateside to join Atlanta United FC later this summer.

Guzan sat down with FOX Sports South’s Brittany Arnold to discuss his return to MLS…