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Waldrop's injury looms large

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South Carolina returned 80% of its starting line from 2012. The only newcomer is Cody Waldrop, who earned glowing offseason praise despite his inexperience. But with Waldrop's status for week 2 in question, another redshirt freshman is in line for the start.

Into whose ass will Connor Shaw beam his steely gaze come Saturday? Wait and see.
Into whose ass will Connor Shaw beam his steely gaze come Saturday? Wait and see.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

When Steve Spurrier was rattling off the postgame injury report last Thursday, he almost failed to mention that starting center Cody Waldrop had sprained his foot. Flash ahead one week and Waldrop's still sporting a walking boot on that sore hoof, and his chances of playing in Athens are unknown.

Enter Clayton Stadnik, redshirt freshman, backup center, and guy who evidently has only ever been photographed once. Hey, do you want to feel really bad about the center situation? Here's a comparison:

Cody Waldrop Clayton Stadnik
Year RS Freshman RS Freshman
Height 6'2" 6'3"
Weight 319 281
Caliber Recruit 3 stars (6th overall center in 2012) 3 stars (18th overall center in 2012)
Starts 1 0
Shaw Elliott commentary on Aug. 7 "He's a hard worker. He's intelligent. He busts his ass every damn day. And I like that. I'm confident in him. "Waldrop's whipping his tail right now. He's beating the fool out of him. Right now, [Stadnik's] not even in the conversation. Unless he turns it around, it may be a true freshman backing [Waldrop] up."

The two rows that should give you the most pause: weight and Elliott's commentary. But especially weight, because that sort of overtly biting rhetoric has to be something of a motivational tactic. Elliott did say after yesterday's practice that Stadnik had "been in there practicing as well as Cody has." It's unclear whether Elliott intended the phrase "as well as" to mean "in a quality equal to that which" or just that Stadnik has also taken reps, but I choose to be encouraged either way.

I don't think Elliott would consider starting Stadnik unless he was confident in the kid's abilities—after all, his criticisms were voiced a week into fall practice, and one would hope Stadnik's polished his act since then if he's even in the conversation (that, or the other options at center are just as uninspiring). More concerning is the 40 pound falloff between 1st and 2nd string.

Of interest:

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Georgia&#39;s new depth chart lists Josh Dawson as a starting DE, with senior Garrison Smith now a starting nose.</p>&mdash; Seth Emerson (@SethEmerson) <a href="https://twitter.com/SethEmerson/statuses/374606737476567041">September 2, 2013</a></blockquote>

<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Smith, a pre-season All-SEC third teamer, is listed at 299 lbs., which means that slotting Stadnik in for Waldrop turns a 20 lb. advantage into a 20 lb. deficit. Whether or not this is a serious concern is beyond my understanding of offensive line dynamics, but with all the attention given last week to Carolina's weight advantage on the line, it must be considered a factor. And since Georgia runs a 3-4 scheme, the OC v. NT matchup is a big one.

Oh yeah and there's also all that stuff like grasping snap counts and handling crowd noise and not snapping the ball into the troposphere and all the other things centers are expected to do before a play even starts. Centers are like umpires in baseball—if they're doing their job well, you shouldn't notice them. But remember, Waldrop's only started one more game than Stadnik, so the dropoff in experience isn't marked. And if you need a confidence boost via some immeasurable tidbit,  Stadnik's father was an NFL center so we can assume he's been the recipient of some valuable advice this week.

Waldrop's condition will continue to be evaluated over the next 48 hours. His status currently "wait and see"—which, at this point, is all we can do.