Gamecocks return experience on the offensive line, but still could see changes
February 03, 2020, | GCF Staff Report
The Gamecocks offensive line enters an offseason that balances some crucial unknowns with a slew of familiar faces. In one way, the team is returning a massive amount of experience, with only one 2019 starter out of eligibility. From another standpoint, many of those experienced players did have there share of struggles at point or another last season. Gamecock Center Donell Stanley, with his six seasons on campus and three in the starting lineup, is the only loss from the lineup. He left with a sense of belief about what was coming up.
Stanley said. “I believe that we’ve got a good program. We’ve just got to put some good pieces together. We’ve got some guys that can make some plays. Got guys that are growing up, too. I’m looking forward to seeing those young guys play. I’ve got all the faith in the world in this program.”
The four players who started on both sides of him most of the year are back, but how they align is a big question now:
▪ Right tackle Dylan Wonnum: A former four-star recruit who broke into the lineup as a true freshman in 2018 and played both sides last season.
▪ Right guard Jovaughn Gwyn: A player who showed promise before a foot injury ended his freshman season. He went into the starting lineup in 2019 and showed some nice mobility with a lot of strength.
▪ Left tackle Sadarius Hutcherson: Last year was his first on the outside after starting at guard the year prior. He moved back to guard for the Clemson game and could end up there this season.
▪ Left guard Jordan Rhodes: Thrown into the lineup after the group struggled in a big way in the opener. More of a road grater than finesse pass blocker and got benched for Hutcherson at the end of the season.
That’s to say nothing of a batch of younger players who got some work, including center Hank Manos, who started the 2018 bowl and 2019 opener; tackle Jaylen Nichols, who started four games and showed some talent despite some pass-blocking questions; and Jakai Moore, who came on late and worked his way into the lineup against Clemson.
The bigger questions needing answering, involve how things shake out at center and what to do with the logjam at tackle. Stanley had to step in at center after Manos struggled in the opener last fall. Without him, Manos or redshirt freshman Vincent Murphy seem the natural fits. But the staff sometimes wants more bulk at the pivot (neither Murphy nor Manos is heavier than 300 pounds), and perhaps one of the guards who can snap has the chops to help there.
At tackle, Gamecocks do have options, enough that it makes some sense Hutcherson would return to guard. Wonnum is a shoo-in to start on one side or the other. Nichols and Moore each showed enough to be possible starters next season. The team also added junior college lineman Jazston Turnetine (6-foot-7, 337 pounds), and JUCO players tend to be brought in to make an immediate impact. Stanley got to see Moore up close in practices, and after his last college game he spoke well of the Northeast product who ended up with several starts as a freshman.
Stanley said. “He started the Vanderbilt game, so I had confidence going in with him there. Thought he produced; he played well. He made some little mistakes, but for the most part, he played well. He’s another one of those young guys that you can look forward to having a special career well.” The Gamecocks will start spring football practice Feb. 26.