Continuity has USC's offensive line faring well

Behind an improved offensive line, South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore leads the nation in rushing through three games.

C. Aluka Berry

After every game, South Carolina center T.J. Johnson gets a text message from running back Marcus Lattimore thanking him and the offensive line for their efforts during the game.

It's the kind of thing that makes Johnson work that much harder for his teammate.

"Marcus is the kind of guy you want to fight for, he's the kind of guy you want to go to war with," Johnson said. "It motivates you as an offensive lineman. You want to fight for every inch that guy."

Lattimore leads the nation in rushing through three games with 534 yards. Johnson said the return of offensive coach Shawn Elliott has been pivotal for the unit's improvement this season.

"I think one huge advantage we've had this year is that we've got the same coach two years in a row," Johnson said. "It's a huge difference. We're running the same scheme and using the same terminology. As a unit, we have gotten closer and we're clicking a lot better than in the past."

Elliott said he's seen plenty of positives out of the offensive line, but there's still room for improvement.

"I think it's just like any position on our football team -- at times they do their job really well and at other times there are some breakdowns," Elliott said. "We can all get better. We all play a big role in everything we do, both running and passing. Everybody's got to do better. You can't pinpoint one particular thing. We have to develop as an offense and strive to improve, and we're going to do that."

Jones to start

The Gamecocks have been looking for a second threat in the passing game to complement All-SEC wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

Could Nick Jones be that guy?

Jones, a redshirt freshman, will start against Vanderbilt. Jones has four receptions for 55 yards, including a 34-yard grab against Navy last week.

"I'm excited," Jones said. "I called my parents and let 'em know I was going to start."

Back to basics for Taylor

South Carolina opened against East Carolina's pass-happy spread offense. Then they had to shift gears and take on Navy's triple-option last weekend. Sandwiched between East Carolina and Navy was Georgia's more conventional pro style offense.

This week's its back to basics, which is a huge relief for All-SEC defensive end Devin Taylor, a Beaufort native who is fourth on the team in tackles with 15.

"Now we can deal with regular issues that we'll have to face later in the season," Taylor said. "It's better than having to prepare for one specific offense and then doing something completely different the next week and then doing something different the week after that."

Don't believe the hype

At 3-0, Vanderbilt is off to its best start since 2008, when they won their first five games.

Vanderbilt coach James Fanklin isn't patting himself on the back just yet.

"We've got a lot of work to do," Franklin said. "We're doing some nice things and we're getting better each week -- that's what I'm really concerned about. The people I'm worried about gaining respect from, the people I'm concerned about making sure we care about one another is the men in that room, our coaching staff, our administrators and the players."

Vanderbilt quarterback Larry Smith, who has thrown for 368 yards and three touchdowns this season, said he isn't concerned about getting any national attention.

"We're not flying under the radar or anything," Smith said. "We're just focused on Vanderbilt and focusing on one game at a time. We can't really worry about the outside things right now. We're taking it one game at a time and one play at a time."