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South Carolina Gamecocks positional preview: Offensive line

Our position by position preview takes us to the front five, the ones that will be giving Connor Mitch protection and opening doors for #BashAndDash to do their thing.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Who's gone?

All-American guard A.J. Cann (who is with the Jaguars) and left tackle Corey Robinson (now with the Lions). Brock Stadnik, expected to be a backup on the o-line, suffered a shoulder injury and is out for the year.

Who's back?

Everyone else. Mike Matulis, injured last year, could split time with Mason Zandi at right tackle. Big Brandon Shell, who's started all but three games in his career, fills Robinson's shoes at LT. Cody Waldrop, who replaced Matulis at right guard before going down himself against Georgia, slides to the left to start but could back up Alan Knott at center after Stadnik's twin brother Clayton moved to tight end. Will Sport, Waldrop's replacement at right guard, will stay where he is. D.J. Park, who saw some time spelling Shell last year, is back in the mix as well.

Who's new?

Freshmen Blake Camper, Trey Derouen, Zack Bailey and Christian Pellage. Transfer Cory Helms, who will sit out due to NCAA regulations.

Key stat: The Gamecocks' offensive line was OK, but not great at boosting the run game last year: the team ranked 62nd in the country and 9th in the SEC (161.0 ypg) in 2014. They allowed 27 sacks, which isn't bad (Ohio State allowed 28, but that's nowhere near the nine that Oklahoma gave up, the fewest in the country).

The scoop: The injury big bit the o-line last year as not one, but two players went down (Matulis and Waldrop). But with the duo returning healthy and ready to contribute, along with the returnees from last season's group, things should be somewhat back to normal. The unit's primary challenge will be not only replacing Cann and Robinson's contributions and making sure Connor Mitch stays on his feet, but opening the door for #BashAndDash (Brandon Wilds and David Williams) to have plenty of space to work with in the running game. In other words, improving on the numbers that I've mentioned above.