What happened to the best offensive line under Will Muschamp? A regroup coming ahead of Florida
One of Will Muschamp’s messages this summer was that he had the best offensive line since he’d been at South Carolina. But whether it was Mike Bobo’s early transition to calling plays with this specific personnel, or the young linemen getting their feet wet, the offensive line struggled against Tennessee, especially in the first half.
An offensive line that arguably had the potential to be the best at South Carolina since 2011 had plenty of choppy moments as South Carolina averaged only 5.12 yards per play, which ranked 8th in the SEC’s opening weekend. In terms of rushing yards, the Gamecocks averaged 2.54 yards per play, which was 11th, though they were 1 of just 4 SEC teams to score multiple rushing touchdowns.
“We got whipped at the tight end position as far as the run game is concerned,” Muschamp said at his Tuesday press conference. “… One missed assignment that was a critical error going in, and then just getting flat out whipped on a couple other occasions.”
The bright spot was on the left side, where Dylan Wonnum is the anchor at tackle, and then Sadarius Hutcherson at left guard and Eric Douglas at center were solid.
“We felt the right side, we need to play better there,” Muschamp said. “Felt like Dylan and Hutch and Eric played well enough for us to win. We’ve got to get better at the right guard and right tackle position.”
Muschamp noted of the 4 quarterbacks sacks, the line was responsible for 2 of them. The right side of the line consisted of Jovaughn Gwyn at right guard and Jakai Moore and Vershon Lee — who played 12 snaps — at right tackle. Muschamp said the problems were a combination of execution and miscues at that position.
Moore was solid, Muschamp said, although he was beat inside for a tackle for a loss, while Gwyn was “just OK” at right guard. Gwyn, a redshirt sophomore who started 11 games last year, had a great training camp according to Muschamp, but didn’t play to that level against Tennessee.
“We have to clean up some fundamentals and techniques in protection,” Muschamp said.
At halftime, and after the game, Bobo noted that he could have have stretched the field earlier, and Muschamp added that they improved in the second half.
“It all works hand and hand and it’s a little bit of a feeling-out process for Mike in a game situation, and what people feel comfortable with, and we score on 4 of 6 possessions in the second half,” Muschamp said. “So pretty evident we did a nice job making adjustments.”
When asked if Moore will again start at right tackle at Florida, Muschamp said upcoming practices will determine the starting spots left tackle and right tackle.
One theory for a solution could be to move Wonnum, the overall best lineman, back to right tackle, where he started his career and was a freshman All-American. But Wonnum told reporters Tuesday that he practiced at left tackle. He also explained what went wrong.
“It really wasn’t missed assignments, it was more missed blocks, like you’ve got to get going, you’ve got to make that block,” Wonnum said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to block. Our communication, it wasn’t bad, so at the end of the day, we’ve got to make our blocks. Communication really wasn’t the issue.”
Wonnum explained that offensive line coach Eric Wolford said the performance wasn’t to the Gamecocks’ standards, even though there was an improvement in the second half.
“It wasn’t from a schematic standpoint, it was just the O-line, we’ve got to just buckle up, tighten our straps and we’ve got to block,” Wonnum said.
Another personnel move could be to insert Jazston Turnetine, a JUCO transfer, who impressed in June as a possible starting left tackle. That would free up Wonnum to move back to the right side.
“That will be a week-to-week thing,” Muschamp said. “Jaylen Nichols is in that conversation. Moving Dylan back to right and Jazston to left tackle, we’re looking to have great competition each week. The guys have to bring their ‘A’ game every day to practice and every day to the meeting room and that will promote some consistency and performance, which is what we need.”
If there’s any solace to take from the opening weekend, it’s that Florida’s defensive front gave up plenty at Ole Miss. The Gators were 11th in the SEC in rushing yards allowed per attempt at 3.78, and the Gators yielded two touchdowns. The Gators did, however, make four sacks, which was third in the SEC last weekend.