South Carolina's top 10 important players: No. 9, Cody Waldrop

Photo by Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA

No matter what he did, Cody Waldrop never could get into a rhythm last season.

His frustrations followed a consistent pattern. Waldrop started South Carolina's opener against North Carolina, but injured his right foot. After missing the Gamecocks' next two games, he returned at the end of September - only to be injured again.

Waldrop missed seven games last season because of injuries. He missed the trip to Tennessee, where South Carolina suffered its most crushing defeat. He missed the trip to Missouri, where South Carolina enjoyed one of the more remarkable wins in program history.

So Waldrop offers a bit of the unknown as he enters his second season. Can he stay healthy? The answer could greatly impact what is expected to be a dominant offensive line.

Behind him, backup Clayton Stadnik played well in relief. Stadnik was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week after South Carolina's win against Vanderbilt, but most believe Waldrop's upside is bigger. At 6-foot-2 and 315 pounds, Waldrop is a potential beast in the middle. But the same body that serves to his advantage must hold up.

Stability at center is important for any quarterback, especially a first-time starter. Senior quarterback Dylan Thompson has more experience than the typical career backup, but a consistent center would greatly help his transition.

South Carolina needs stability in the middle of its offensive line, not a revolving door. A healthy Waldrop would take care of that.