COLUMBIA — What’s the expression? The only time an offensive lineman gets noticed is when he messes up.
South Carolina’s group will cheerfully stay in the background.
“I don’t know if anybody’s ever liked being anonymous, but I have no problem with it whatsoever. I think as a group, we’re completely all right with that,” USC backup center Chandler Farrell said. “As long as we’re successful as a team, it really doesn’t matter about recognition to any of us.”
Now that the Gamecocks have played 12 games, it’s talking season again.
Boy, the offense was stellar in the final half, wasn’t it? Man, if USC had only been able to keep a healthy defense, some of those L’s could have been W’s …
It’s almost an afterthought, which is good. USC’s offensive line didn’t get a lot of words about it during the season. Fair or unfair, it’s because it played so well that there was never reason to chastise it.
“I know how we feel in the building, I don’t know about outside. We got a lot of confidence in those guys and how they’re playing and certainly recognize them within our organization a lot as far as the job that they’re doing,” USC head coach Will Muschamp said.
“I think (line coach Eric Wolford) does a really good job preparing his guys week-in and week-out, and we’ve got some guys that have logged some snaps. We felt like that would be a good strong suit of ours going into the year and it certainly has panned out that way.”
The line was being counted on to be a linchpin last year but numerous injuries (mostly sprained ankles) limited what it could do. Yet the Gamecocks still won nine games.
This year, the offensive front was mostly healthy throughout the season until left guard Zack Bailey went down in the third quarter of the final game. Malik Young had to fill in for left tackle Dennis Daley at times, while freshman Dylan Wonnum replaced veteran Blake Camper midseason and wound up winning All-SEC freshman honors.
It was a group that only gave up 20 sacks, the fifth-best total in the SEC and tied for 36th nationally. USC gave up 29 last year.
“They’ve played extremely well and of those (sacks), just off the top of my head, four or five aren’t on them,” Muschamp said. “I think they’ve played well.”
The Gamecocks also played their best in a big moment. They lost to Clemson, and they gave up three sacks against a Tigers defensive front that averages between three and four per game.
But they also paved the way for 600 yards of offense, something that had Clemson defensive guru Brent Venables losing his mind on the sideline.
“I think we came a long way. In my mind, I think we’re actually one of the best offensive lines that’s been here,” said right guard Sadarius Hutcherson. “I think we’re one of the best offensive lines in the nation, also.”
USC will play the Belk Bowl without Bailey, who will miss the game due to a broken left fibula. The Gamecocks adjusted against Akron by sliding center Donell Stanley into Bailey’s left guard spot, with Farrell taking over at center.
That will probably be the plan against Virginia, a team with 23 sacks on the year. With one game to go, despite playing a man down, the Gamecocks don’t plan on stopping what has worked so well.
“We’re really a tight-knit family and a brotherhood. We understood coming into this season, it was going to be really important for us to step up and really do our job if we were going to be successful,” Farrell said. “You pair our coaching with veteran players and just the bond that we have as a group, we just came out and played a lot better than we’ve ever played before.”
Mistakes are noticed.
USC’s line wasn’t.