Elliott: Offensive line is ‘where we need to be’

Unit’s peaks and valleys not unusual during long fall camp, coach says

jkendall@thestate.comAugust 20, 2013 

The battlefield demotion that left tackle Corey Robinson received during Saturday’s scrimmage is not a sign of things to come. In fact, not much that happened Saturday is a reflection of what has or will happen this season along South Carolina’s offensive line, line coach Shawn Elliott said.

“It’s been a good camp,” Elliott said Tuesday. “It’s been a long camp. We have been out here 19 days, you get tired of it. You run the same cadence, the same plays over and over and over again. I think we have made progress. I think we are where we need to be.”

It did not appear that way Saturday when All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney manhandled Robinson so badly that Robinson was replaced with redshirt freshman Mason Zandi midway through the scrimmage. The problems didn’t end with Clowney and Robinson, though, as many of the Gamecocks’ defensive linemen got to the quarterback again and again.

“Camp is an up-and-down process,” Elliott said. “It’s a roller coaster ride. Some days we are really good, some days we are really down. I wasn’t discouraged by no means. You want their best effort each and every day, but it wasn’t that day.”

Coach Steve Spurrier was so disappointed in the pass blocking in the scrimmage that he said afterward, “We have some soft guys, there’s no question about that.”

“Soft” is a particularly dirty word among offensive linemen.

“When your boss tells you you are bad, does it get to you?” Elliott replied when asked for his response. “At that point, that day, certainly I agreed, certainly. I think everybody in the country would have agreed.”

Overall, though, Elliott and his offensive linemen are not concerned about their toughness or their performance.

“In camp, you have your valleys and your peaks,” Zandi said. “I think we are all a tough group of guys trying to do our best. Every dog has his day. I feel like we took a small step back, but that’s just camp. Today, we came out and had a great day.”

Robinson was back in his role as the starting left tackle Tuesday and is expected to be there Aug. 29 when the Gamecocks open the season against North Carolina in Williams-Brice Stadium.

“Corey has been out here working hard. We’ve practiced a lot of days, a lot of days. You know, Clowney has taken a few days off, comes out here fresh. He was ready to go and whipped his tail up and down the field,” Elliott said. “The first four plays, you could barely touch him and those were on screens where we tried to chip him. I am hopeful it’s going to look like that for every offensive lineman in the country against Clowney.”

No personnel changes are expected across the South Carolina front, Spurrier said.

“Pass protection is an issue but, hopefully, we will get better at it as we go,” Spurrier said after watching the tape of the scrimmage. “As the NFL boys would say, we have to get the kinks out before the season starts.”

The Gamecocks are expected to break preseason camp later this week and begin game-planning for the Tar Heels, and that will give Elliott a chance to turn down the tempo for his offensive linemen, allowing them to recuperate from the grind of camp and “let this game become really fun for them,” he said.

“These guys have been practicing an awful lot,” Elliott added. “We have practiced them harder this camp than anytime since I’ve been here. We’ve got nine days to get better, and we’ll find out next Thursday night if we’re any good.”

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