COLUMBIA — The attack came from the left.
Donell Stanley had just turned around to fork another steak onto a teammate’s plate when he spied another slab of meat disappearing off the grill. Spinning back around, he saw the 12-ounce ribeye already bitten nearly in two.
“Oh, God,” the leader of South Carolina’s offensive line said with a roll of his eyes. “The last time we cooked out, we grilled and had a fish fry. He ate his plate, then 10 minutes later, was like, ‘I got to fix me a sandwich.’
“He doesn’t do seconds. Got to have thirds and fourths.”
Sadarius Hutcherson confirmed. Listed as a 230-pound lineman when he signed with the Gamecocks in 2016, he’s up to 320 and projected to start at left tackle.
“It was tough for about the first month. It all got easier once I started seeing results,” Hutcherson rumbled. “I ate six times a day to get there, three meals and a snack in between each.”
Lots of people eat a lot. Particularly those on the offensive line of a football team.
With Hutcherson, the diet and making the weight room his second apartment has sculpted 90 pounds of muscle onto him. His ability and aptitude for strength training landed him on Bruce Feldman’s list of the 50 Biggest Freaks in college football, long considered an unofficial kickoff to the season.
It isn’t easy to become a Freak. It’s reserved for players whose abilities stand out even among a team full of gifted athletes. Jevon Kearse used it as his nickname; former Gamecock (and No. 1 NFL draft pick) Jadeveon Clowney was rated tops on Feldman’s list a few years ago.
What makes Hutcherson so freakish, besides an appetite that only adds to his power, never to his belly?
The weight totals vary, but all agree — the guy can jerk some iron.
“He did the bench press at 225, and he did it like 41 times,” quarterback Dakereon Joyner said before checking himself. “I don’t want to say a wrong number, I don’t want to exaggerate … but that may be right, though.”
(It was actually 38).
“He’s pumping it like it’s 135,” marveled defensive end Brad Johnson. “I done seen him with so many plates on that bar he doesn’t have any more room on it.”
That’s on the squat rack, where Hutcherson stacks 45-pound discs on the bar like some folks eat popcorn. Johnson estimates he’s seen Hutcherson put seven on each side, and the bar itself weighs 45 pounds.
That’s 675 pounds. His max-out hasn’t been charted because it could damage the equipment.
Dropped passes became missed opportunities that became losses far too many times for South Carolina last year.
“He's a guy that we stopped on the power clean and squat test,” coach Will Muschamp said.
“He's bending the bar.”
They found him in Huntingdon, Tenn., a town of 4,000 nearly centered between Memphis and Nashville. Muschamp reckoned the Gamecocks beat UT-Martin for his services.
“I hosted him on his official visit and he was probably 230 pounds. By camp in 2017, he was up to 315,” Stanley said. “He played that year and he looked good. Now, he’s quick on his feet, he’s got some good power, good anchor and that’s what coach (Eric Wolford) looks for. And it’s what people on the next level look for, too.”
He’s already starting to pop on some NFL radars but first he has to prove he can play at the line position where he’ll have the most eyes on him. Hutcherson played left guard in 2017 and mostly right guard last year (again playing left in the Belk Bowl) but will now be trusted with protecting the blind side of quarterback Jake Bentley.
“We talk about it pretty much almost every day. He knows what I’m capable of doing,” Hutcherson said of Bentley and his relationship. “It’s just a matter of going out there and doing it.”
As Hutcherson is learning his new spot, Johnson has won many one-on-one battles. He knows that’s going to stop any day now.
“By the time the season comes, it’s going to be a scary sight to see,” Johnson said. “Him and Javon (Kinlaw), I ain’t never seen two guys that big and move that fast.”
Hutcherson spoke at Media Day and was ready to get on the field the next day. Naturally practice followed his breakfast (three to four eggs, three slices of bacon and three sausages are the main course) and some of his normal between-breakfast-and-lunch snack (two to three sandwiches).
They don’t have a separate steam tray for him in the chow line (yet) but watching Hutcherson at meal time is a must-see. He’s heading back for another plate while his buddies just unfolded their napkins.
“Everything he does is kind of like, ‘Ohhh!,’ You know what I’m saying?,” Joyner said. “How you just have to stop and look?”
Feaster makes it in
Clemson graduate transfer running back Tavien Feaster was at practice Saturday and cleared to participate. He’ll only be behind one day (Tuesday, when he’ll have to wear shoulder pads and shorts while his teammates are in full pads) but will be in full drills by Wednesday.