South Carolina's Offensive Line: The Lingering Question Mark
You stare at the screen.
It doesn't matter what screen usually, computer screen, television screen... Whenever you're given a moment you revert to your usual day dream.
You rattle the cough drop back around your teeth then- Stop. You're doing it again.
You're thinking of Stephen Garcia throwing for 4,000 yards and 35 touchdowns. At least 1,500 and 10 a piece for Alshon Jeffery and Tori Gurley.
You're thinking of Marcus Lattimore and Jarvis Giles sprinting down sidelines. You're seeing Brian Maddox and Kenny Miles dive over the top at the goal line.
You're seeing Stephon Gilmore pick-sixes, Akeem Auguste's bone-jarring tackles, and Cliff Matthews envelop quarterbacks.
You're seeing upsets. Oh, are you seeing upsets.
You're seeing Steve Spurrier raise the SEC conference championship trophy with his reminiscent cocky smirk.
You're seeing the promised land.
OK now stop Rob... or Dan... or Phil or whoever you are. You've been a fool to let yourself slip this far. I mean, have you not seen the last couple seasons?
Sure there have been bright spots, but every team has bright spots.
Do you remember all the times you let yourself get sucked in to the hype of recruits and Spurrier only to be burrowed four feet into your well frequented hole by week nine?
But seriously, you're at work you need to snap out of it. So it's time to bring out the big guns. The ammonia to your minor concussion, the ultimate buzz-kill to your consuming dream of a championship—the offensive line.
Oh! It hits you like a kick in the groin. The unit that controls the effectiveness of both the passing and running games, making it also a decisive force in the field position battle.
The unit that pretty much effects everything you do on the football field on every offensive play. That's the only unit that Carolina seems to be completely inept at fielding competently.
Eric Wolford was brought in about a year ago to right the ship, but wouldn't ya know it, Youngstown State's head coaching position opened up.
In walks Shawn Elliot from Appalachian State.
Spunky, yes, but experienced? Not so much.
The former Division II (or whatever it's called, you know what I mean) coach won some titles at App. State so he's a proven winner. However, he will find that there are a lot bigger, faster athletes at each level of the defense in D-1 ball.
Not to mention it will be a lot harder to win a title without those pesky playoffs (ba-zing!).
The unit is anchored by the intense senior tackle (are we sure he's an OFFENSIVE tackle???) Jarriel King, experienced senior Terrence Campbell, and young but reliable sophomore T.J. Johnson.
With other experienced linemen such as junior Quentin Richardson and another good batch of baby-bigs on the way headlined by A.J. Cann, the problem up front is no longer size and talent.
But with yet another offensive line coach on the way, it will take an extraordinary effort from everyone involved to all mesh and get on the right page by game day.
It's a lot to ask considering this is some of the veteran offensive linemen's third position coach in as many years.
However, is it not possible, nay, probable that such a feat could happen under the tutelage of one of the best offensive coaches the college football world has ever seen?
Well, yes. And no.
Spurrier has made strides with his passing game in the last couple of seasons, culminating with some well rounded numbers for his versatile quarterback in 2009. Stephen Garcia finished the year first in the SEC in completions.
The redshirt sophomore was able to make the most of those completions also as he was behind only Arkansas's Ryan Mallet and Florida's departed All-Everything Tim Tebow in passing yards at year's end.
The running game, however, has been a completely different story as the Gamecocks sunk to last in the SEC in rushing for the third consecutive year.
Carolina scratched their way to gaining a measly 120 yards per game on the ground. And the sad part was the coaches were trying to establish a rushing attack.
Nevertheless, there are many reasons to think that this could turn around in 2010.
The Gamecocks have a legitimate, dual threat quarterback that specializes in improvising once the pocket breaks. Garcia has a big arm and a big play mentality that always makes him dangerous in or out of the pocket.
Carolina also features a loaded backfield that includes tailbacks of all kinds. There are the bangers such as senior Brian Maddox and sophomore Kenny Miles that never shy away from contact. There are the slashers and speedsters such as Jarvis Giles and Bryce Sherman.
And now, there's a certain #1 tailback from Byrnes High that has had web scouts throwing conniption fits about him for years by the name of Marcus Lattimore. Haven't heard of him yet? Go fetch a Carolina or Auburn fan and you'll be filled right in.
A stable of running backs that could prove to be so deadly that if the Carolina offensive line can open up some lanes for them and provide them with some space, the Gamecock offense could open up in a big way.
Make no mistake, this is a very talented offense with playmakers at every skill position (don't forget about man-child Weslye Saunders in the red zone!). But it will all be for nothing if this offensive line can't come together.
If they can though, if this offensive line can mesh and fill the offense's one obvious hole then the "one special year" that the Ole Ball Coach has been teasing the Gamecock faithful with isn't as far away as it seems.
And maybe, just maybe, the Gamecocks could rule the SEC roost for a year and make innumerable Carolina daydreams come true.
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