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South Carolina’s five most important players: #2, Malik Young

The redshirt junior will be tasked with protecting Jake Bentley’s blindside in 2017.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

After two defensive players, offensive lineman Malik Young takes the number two spot in our ranking of the most important players for the South Carolina Gamecocks this season.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2016, Young earned his first start at right tackle versus Texas A&M and held onto the position for the remainder of the season. This year he will slide over to the left side of the line to block for Jake Bentley’s blind side.

Young’s position, not necessarily his skill-set, is the primary reason we see him playing such an important role for the Gamecocks this season. The success of the offense and, by extension, the team, in 2017 will largely be determined by the offensive line’s ability to protect Bentley. As the primary pass blocker, strong play from the left tackle is going to be pivotal.

That’s not to say Young isn’t an impressive player - he proved himself more than capable with his performances at right tackle last season. A little undersized at 6-foot-3, 303 pounds, he rarely loses ground at first impact and is strong enough to stonewall edge rushers if he can get two hands on them. It also speaks volume that Young won the starting position over 6-foot-6, 319 pound JUCO transfer Dennis Daley.

Expect the competition for the starting job to continue into the season, but offensive line coach Eric Wolford told The State that, “Right now, Malik plays harder than him [Daley] on a consistent basis. That son of a gun will play hard.”

Wolford should find out quickly if Young has what it takes to anchor the offensive line. In his first game at left tackle, Young will be tasked with blocking N.C. State’s phenom of a defensive end, pre-season All-American Bradley Chubb. En-route to a breakout junior campaign, Chubb had 10.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss in 2016.

South Carolina will be counting on Young to deliver not only on September 2, but throughout the year if the offense is to progress from last season.