gamecocks 2008: Holding the Line

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It would be difficult to lay the blame for the Gamecocks' Spurrier-era defensive woes on any one part of the offense. Quarterbacks haven't performed as well as expected. Running backs, as much as C&F and others might love Cory Boyd, have rushed for 100+ yards in a game far too infrequently.

But the performances of quarterbacks and running backs depend, to some extent, on the performance of the offensive line. And if the Gamecocks are to have any chance at success in 2008, the the offensive line numbers have to improve.

In fact, one could argue that Spurrier's offensive lines haven't risen above mediocre in his three years at the helm so far.

Year Sacks Yds Per gm Rank Rush atts Yds YPC Rank
2007 31 216 2.58 92t 382 1,364 3.57 101
2006 24 149 1.85 52t 414 1,876 4.53 49
2005 30 215 2.50 76t 365 1,142 3.13 108

None of those numbers are particularly impressive on their own. They become less impressive when you add little tidbits like the teams South Carolina was tied with in 2007 were Arizona, Army and Louisiana Tech, or the fact that the only SEC team allowing more sacks than USC last year was Kentucky (38 sacks, 282 yards, 2.92/gm, ranked 104).

So Gamecock fans probably react with guarded optimism to assessments like this one from Phil Steele:

This should be one of the most improved O-lines in the SEC in 2008.

Though one could also argue that when you have nowhere to go but up...

A characteristic problem has been the musical chairs rotation along the offensive line. Only three linemen -- William Brown (now out of eligibility), Jamon Meredith and Justin Sorensen -- started more than six games in 2008. And only one of the remaining linemen, Seaver Brown, started exactly six. The rest started five or fewer games.

If there's one thing that will hurt an offensive line, it's instability. Not that Spurrier or John Hunt could be blamed for shuffling the lineups in an attempt to get something -- anything -- going. But it hardly helped matters.

There are no true freshmen on the way to help things, but there are some redshirt freshmen that could make an impact. Quintin Richardson, who was stabbed before the 2007 season began, could see some playing time, though he's down the depth chart right now. Kyle Nunn could get in at right tackle to relieve Sorensen.

Still, look for Garrett Anderson (four starts in 2007), Heath Batchelor (three), Seaver Brown, Meredith and Sorensen to get the lion's share of the playing time and almost all of the starts. That would provide some much-needed stability.

Meaning if everything goes as planned, the Gamecocks might see that improvement Steele promises.

The rest of the offense would be grateful for it.

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