College Sports

Lineman emerging as possible starter for Gamecocks up front, freshman earns mention

Why South Carolina’s Eric Wolford reached for another starter to fill USC’s left tackle spot

South Carolina Gamecocks football offensive line coach Eric Wolford tasked starting guard Sadarius Hutcherson to step in at the left tackle position going into the 2019 season.
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South Carolina Gamecocks football offensive line coach Eric Wolford tasked starting guard Sadarius Hutcherson to step in at the left tackle position going into the 2019 season.

Coming into August camp, South Carolina seemed to have four of its top offensive line spots in pretty good hands, all save for the right guard spot.

It might have a name emerging at that spot.

Gamecocks coach Will Muschamp said versatile veteran Eric Douglas has been showing well at that spot. He had been battling with strong redshirt freshman Jovaughn Gwyn at that spot.

“Eric Douglas right now would probably start at right guard,” Muschamp said. “But he’s also our backup at both tackle positions because he’s a very flexible, smart guy that can do a lot of things and is athletic.”

Douglas was in Muschamp’s first class at South Carolina, and the former Shawn Elliott recruit has evolved into a player who can back up all five spots along the line. Muschamp mentioned him as the swing tackle. He played center in the spring game and is in the mix for the guard spots.

It’s a luxury for offensive lineman Eric Wolford, who has told the 6-foot-4, 315-pound lineman about the value of that flexibility going forward.

“He’s been telling me, with my versatility, that just helps me out at this level and then next level,” Douglas said. “Maximize my potential at every position.”

The other four spots seem somewhat settled. Dylan Wonnum and Donell Stanely are returning starters. Sadarius Hutcherson moved from guard to left tackle and earned praise from his coach. Center Hank Manos started the bowl game, and Muschamp said he’s having a “really good camp.”

Beyond that group, things are fitting about as expected, with Chandler Farrell as a backup center and Jordan Rhodes working behind Stanley.

But one name Muschamp mentioned after the first scrimmage on Monday was worth taking note of.

“The two young tackles are going to be good players,” Muschamp said. “There’s just a lot going on right now for those guys as far as the speed of the game, a lot of installation and how they’re going to handle defensively three-down, four-down pressures and there’s a lot between Jaylen (Nichols) and Jakai Moore.”

Nichols started making his mark in spring, playing No. 2 right tackle snaps as an athletic early enrollee.

But Moore getting in that mix is notable. The highest-rated offensive line recruit in the freshman class, he picked USC over Penn State and has a good frame at 6-foot-5, 285 pounds.

Offensive linemen rarely see the field that early, though the Gamecocks weren’t shy about getting some redshirting freshmen work and starting Wonnum last year. Still, Moore coming up ahead of some of the veterans probably says a little something.

That the next two tackles are freshmen might point to a need for Douglas to stay at backup tackle, but Muschamp sees the potential in that pair.

“Both of those guys are going to be good players,” Muschamp said. “”They fit athletically. They’ve just got to continue to have the game slow down for them.”

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