COLUMBIA, S.C. — It took just a few snaps for D.J. Park’s first start to take a sudden turn.
The South Carolina junior solidified himself as the starting right tackle in fall camp. Everything was normal when he trotted onto the field at Vanderbilt last Thursday, but just a few plays later, Park was in rather unfamiliar territory at right guard.
Guard Donell Stanley vacated that spot after suffering a high ankle sprain. Park slid inside to the guard spot and sophomore Blake Camper took over at right tackle.
“That was awesome by D.J. and Blake,” starting center Cory Helms said Tuesday. “Blake had a really good camp and he was ready. Then D.J. probably playing five snaps at guard all camp, going in there and I don’t think he had any missed assignments or anything. That was big time.”
The offensive line had its minor issues in the first game. Camper called it “a little bumpy in the beginning” and admitted he had some early jitters when his number was called early. They were flagged for a few penalties early before settling down and coming together well for the second half. They will look to carry that into Saturday night at Mississippi State (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2).
With Stanley out until mid-October, now it is a matter of hammering down a new starting lineup. The left side appears set with Mason Zandi at left tackle and Zack Bailey at guard, but the rest of the line can shuffle through a few different playing groups. Helms was working at right guard earlier this week with senior Alan Knott at center. The two also could switch positions. At right tackle, it could be either Park or Camper, and Park provides the ability to play inside and outside.
“It will be determined at practice, but we’ve got a lot of flexibility,” coach Will Muschamp said. “Cory (Helms), Alan and Chandler Farrell can all snap. Zack Bailey can snap. Those guys, those four right there, can go in and play center.
“Cory and Alan can play either guard position. D.J. Park can play either guard position. Blake Camper and D.J can play right tackle and flip to the left tackle depending on how Malik (Young) has practiced throughout the week. … When you have multiple snappers, it creates a lot of things for you to be able to move and get the best five guys in the game.”
Fortunately for the Gamecocks, Muschamp and his staff had worked through similar injury situations during the final fall scrimmage. Park worked at right guard during that scrimmage, giving him a little bit of experience heading into what wound up being more than 60 snaps at the position at Vanderbilt.
The versatility Muschamp was looking to create through camp came into play sooner than expected.
“It’s really nice because at any moment, it’s the SEC, anybody can go down,” Camper said. “Knowing that you can rely on another guy to go in and play a different position that maybe they’re not as comfortable with at the time, but they can go in and play because they know it is really nice.”
Park and Camper both were working at right tackle early this week. Park said he prefers playing tackle since he is most familiar with the spot.
But whatever the lineup is, the Gamecocks feel comfortable with the options at hand.
“Honestly, I think we have several reserve offensive linemen that have had really good camps and that we all trust,” Helms said. “Just next man up. That’s it.”