This post continues a series picking an All-Decade Team. Over the summer, we'll be honoring the best players Carolina has had at each position over the past ten years. We'll also give shout-outs to some of the other memorable players we've had. In our last four installments of this series, I picked Ryan Succop as our top placekicker, Spencer Lanning as our punter, Marcus Lattimore (with an honorable mention to Cory Boyd) as our runningback, Jared Cook at tight end, and Alshon Jeffery and Sidney Rice at wide receiver.
Today, we're looking at the offensive line. Notoriously, offensive line has been one of Carolina's weak spots over the years. We've had a lot of trouble fielding a line good enough to pave the way for our typically talented players at the skills positions. That said, there have been some standout players. My picks for each position are as follows:
LT: Travelle Wharton
LG: Garrett Chisolm (honorable mention to Jamon Meredith)
C: T.J. Johnson
RG: Shane Hall
RT: Melvin Paige
These are the highlights at a regretfully shallow position for the Gamecocks. While none of these players has earned first-team All-SEC honors (Johnson has a chance this year to be the first in a long time to do so), most spent time on the second-team and played some professional ball.
It bears remarking that these players played for some of the best overall Carolina teams of the past decade. Great offensive lines win football games, and the fact that we won games in the years these guys played for us bears that out. Wharton, Hall, and Paige manned the lines of our talented teams in the early 2000s, while Chisolm and Johnson contributed to Carolina's revitalized rushing attack in 2010. Meredith played for some leaner Carolina offenses, but he made a large contribution to our productive 2006 unit. Our weaker years typically didn't feature much talent on the offensive line. That's not a coincidence, so here's to hoping that we continue to see improvement along the line in 2011.