Spring football recap, storylines: USC offensive line

April 18, 2013 

A review and recap of how South Carolina's offensive linemen fared this spring (the third in a series of positional reviews of the Gamecocks):

Top performers

A.J. Cann, Mason Zandi, Cody Waldrop

Spring awards

... Most improved offensive Line: Mason Zandi

... Most improved freshman-offense: Cody Waldrop

... Everyday Effort Award-Offense: Brandon Shell

... Everyday Hustle Award-Offense: A.J. Cann

Projected depth chart

Left tackle
1-Corey Robinson (RS Jr.)
2-Mike Matulis (Jr.)
3-Mason Zandi (RS Fr.)

Left guard
1-A.J. Cann (RS Jr.)
2-Brock Stadnik (RS Fr.)

Center
1-Cody Waldrop (RS Fr.)
2-Clayton Stadnik (RS Fr.) - OR - Will Sport (RS So.)

Right guard
1-Ronald Patrick (Sr.)
2-Will Sport (RS So.)
3-D.J. Park (Fr.)

Right tackle
1-Brandon Shell (RS So.)
2-Cody Gibson (RS Jr.)
3-D.J. Park (Fr.)

What we learned

1. Waldrop will be the starting center

Redshirt freshman Cody Waldrop will be the starting center on an otherwise experienced offensive line. Coaches have praised Waldrop’s work ethic and ability as he transitions from guard. Waldrop has had some typical struggles with learning to snap and block - instead of just blocking.

2. Robinson, Shell hold down tackle spots

Brandon Shell is down 10 pounds this spring after playing at more than 330 pounds last year, and he hopes to be down to 315 in the fall. The 6-foot-8, 338-pound Corey Robinson asked this spring to face off against defensive end Jadeveon Clowney in order to improve after starting nine games at left tackle last season.

Questions moving forward

1. What about the injuries?

Offensive tackles Cody Gibson and Mike Matulis are expected to return from injury in the fall. Gibson missed most of spring practice due to a meniscus tear in his knee. Matulis did not participate this spring because of rehabilitation from a second shoulder surgery and considered giving up football, Steve Spurrier said.

2. Can any signees play right away?

Offensive linemen rarely play as true freshmen and USC has built depth at all the positions on the line. D.J. Park, who enrolled in school in January, played some tackle for the Gamecocks this spring but is still likely headed for a redshirt year. That should also be the case for Na'Ty Rodgers, Bryce King, J.P. Vonashek and Alan Knott.

They said it

Shawn Elliott: "Everybody throws out potential sometime, but we've got a good group. We've got four returning starters and two other guys that have started at times that are going to be back. I think we've got a solid young group backing those guys up."

Elliott on his backups: "I am pleased with every single one of those guys, all of them. The Stadniks, Mason Zandi, Cody Waldrop, that's a great young group, really good. They have to learn the game of football and how to put it all together, but I'm not down on one of those guys. I'm really pleased with their effort. They go in there. They fight. That's something we haven't had out here in a long time, guys that are willing to go after it."

Cody Waldrop: “I am just here to play ball. The speed of the ball is all I have to work on, just getting it back there a little slower and below the waist. I am going to slow that down, and we’ll work from there.”

Elliott on Cody Waldrop: “He’s a dependable guy; he’s a hard working guy; he’s intelligent; he knows what to do and how to do it. The one thing we have to do is transition him from playing the guard to the center. Snapping and blocking is a little bit different than just going out there and blocking.”

A.J. Cann: “I tried to get stronger in the weight room this offseason, and, hopefully, that will carry over to the field. I know I can get a lot better at pass blocking. It’s something we’ve struggled with over the years so that’s something we all can get better at. We understand a lot of eyes are on us. We need to be better as a group and I feel like I can help with that process.”

Elliott on A.J. Cann: “A.J. is a great player. He can be as good as he wants to be. He should be one of the best in our conference, if not the country, and I will tell him that to his face. I’ve seen leadership. He’s the hardest working guy on our football team, and I expect him to step up and be a really great football player next fall.”

Brandon Shell: “I think I am starting to learn plays better, starting to get my steps down better. It’s a big learning process for me now. I watch film, just looking at how I can progress on the things I do and the steps I can take. I don’t feel like I have reached my full potential yet. There is a lot of room to get better. In my mind, I know I can get better.”

Steve Spurrier on Brandon Shell: “He’s coming around. He struggled at times last year. I think he’ll be a lot better this year, I really do. He and Corey Robinson, physically they could be those Alabama linemen, they really could be. (Offensive line coach Shawn) Elliott has got to get them there. (Shell) played pretty well (in 2012.) He just missed a few guys here and there. We are expecting him to play a little better.”

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