South Carolina’s defensive line and secondary were not the only disappointing position units in last week’s blowout loss to Texas A&M.
The Gamecocks’ offensive line, believed to be the SEC East’s strongest coming into the season, didn’t have an answer for the Aggies’ front four and never provided a dependable pocket or running lanes for the South Carolina offense.
Dylan Thompson was sacked three times and put on the turf countless others, not a successful night for the men in the trenches per offensive line coach Shawn Elliott.
“It was a very disappointing outing for us. It gets your attention,” Elliott said after Wednesday’s practice. “But we faced a very good football team. They came out well-prepared and took it to us. We expect the same thing from East Carolina this week. We have to hone in on some of the skills that we’ve set throughout the course of camp and bring them out on game day.
“We’ve got another opportunity. No one game makes or breaks a football season.”
For South Carolina, an 0-2 start would ‘break’ any chances at a College Football Playoff berth and could further damage the team’s psyche heading into a pivotal bout with division rival Georgia on Sept. 13.
East Carolina’s up first, a team that ranked first in the Conference USA last season against the run at 116 yards per game. In the opener against North Carolina Central, the Pirates limited the opposition to 70 yards on 31 carries.
Moving the focus back on the ground game behind Mike Davis, Brandon Wilds and now David Williams is a top priority for the Gamecocks who aren’t well-equipped to play from behind in three and four wide receivers sets.
Davis practiced fully Wednesday after missing much of the opener with bruised ribs. Texas A&M held Davis to 15 yards on six carries and kept the Gamecocks’ ground attack in check at just 3.0 yards per carry.
South Carolina’s been out-rushed in eight of its last nine losses dating back to the 2010 season.
“We’ve put a little more emphasis on (the running game),” Elliott said. “We had some opportunities to run the football last week. It just didn’t work out. We’ve got some backs that want to run it. We’ve got some linemen that want to block for it. We’ll see how it pans out on Saturday.”
Down a starter up front after Mike Matulis’ injury prior to last Thursday night, coach Steve Spurrier says he may tinker with the look of South Carolina’s offensive line. Redshirt freshman Alan Knott’s on the two-deep and has gotten first-team practice reps over Clayton Stadnik this week.
“I’m not 100 percent sure yet (on who would start at center), but Alan Knott has had a good week of practice,” said Elliott. “These guys all work hard. They all deserve a chance to get in there and show what they can do.”