COLUMBIA — The snap hit Jake Bentley in the fingers, a ball he blamed himself for not catching, and he quickly dove on it as it fell at the heels of his center. One play later, he completed an improvisational pitch to Kiel Pollard, who pinballed into the end zone for a touchdown. So no harm, no foul, right?
Sure. Against Coastal Carolina. Against a four-man front that was all sophomores, all weighing substantially less than the 300-pounders across South Carolina’s offensive line.
Against No. 3 Georgia on Saturday?
Turn to page 34 if you chose “Unmitigated Disaster.”
“We just talked to Donell. Donell played well,” coach Will Muschamp said of his center. “We had some snaps that didn’t have the zip that we needed. It threw our timing off in the running game a little bit, threw our timing off in some of the RPOs. We just need a little more zip on the ball. That’s it.”
Center Donell Stanley is in his first year at the position, although he’s been repping it throughout his career and exclusively at center since the Outback Bowl ended. Alan Knott graduated, line coach Eric Wolford told Stanley he needed him, so Stanley started snapping.
Spring ball, summer workouts and preseason camp were fine. Stanley was snapping balls at Bentley’s waist like they were lures on the lines he loves to cast in Lake Murray.
Coastal was mostly fine. It was the times outside of the “mostly” that raised eyebrows.
Some snaps floated. Some had Bentley bending to his shins to recover them. In a speedy up-tempo offense that relies on split-second timing, that one bad snap may be all that’s needed to screw up the play.
Against Coastal, it didn’t hurt. It wasn’t what the coaches wanted to see, but it didn’t come back to bite the Gamecocks’ tailfeathers.
The Bulldogs won’t be as kind.
“I guess it was sweat, basically. Couldn’t really get a grip,” Stanley said Tuesday. “Got some equipment guys that got some solutions for it, so I think it will be good. It was pretty good in practice today. We’ve got some kind of stuff that makes your hands grip better.”
Stanley can’t wear a glove on his snapping hand so hopefully the whatever he can put on that paw will help. Muschamp and Bentley said that it’s a small problem, there’s no need to think about replacing Stanley (Chandler Farrell is the backup and Zack Bailey has snapped before), and everything looked fine in practice this week.
As he’s wont to do, Bentley shouldered the blame for the bad snaps. He said he tried to go a little too fast on that one play and he should have caught it.
He also pointed out that the last thing he would do is say something in the middle of the game.
“You got to be careful about necessarily saying something to a center, because you don’t want to say, ‘Donnie, get ’em higher!’ or something and he’d fly one over my head or something,” Bentley said. “He was saying that it was getting kind of wet, it was just humid or whatever, but we worked on it and they were fine today.”
A 3:30 p.m. kickoff in Columbia could be more toasty and humid than last week’s noon start. If it increases the heat on Stanley’s snaps, the Gamecocks are all for it.