Game­cocks’ of­fen­sive line coach push­ing right but­tons

The State - - Sports - BY JOSH KEN­DALL jk­endall@thes­

South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp calls of­fen­sive line coach Eric Wol­ford “very de­mand­ing,” but Game­cocks fans can’t tell from Wol­ford’s pro­fes­so­rial ap­proach on game days.

“He doesn’t yell and scream on game day. He gets that out dur­ing the week,” se­nior of­fen­sive line­man Blake Camper ex­plained.

Wol­ford’s ap­proach has worked this year for the Game­cocks of­fen­sive line, the one unit on the team to con­sis­tently draw praise from Muschamp de­spite jug­gling its lineup through­out the sea­son. He was an­nounced Wed­nes­day as a can­di­date for the Broyles Award, given each year to the

na­tion’s top as­sis­tant coach.

Wol­ford, who was Youngstown State’s head coach from 2010-2014, joined South Carolina’s staff in 2017, re­plac­ing Shawn El­liott.

“He has a big pic­ture ap­proach,” Muschamp said. “Some­times of­fen­sive line coaches have a very my­opic opin­ion of things. They look at one thing and how it af­fects five guys. Eric’s been a head coach be­fore. He sees the run game. He sees the pass game. He sees the con­cepts. He un­der­stands de­fen­sive struc­ture. I think he’s just very de­tailed.”

Wol­ford, like the rest of South Carolina’s as­sis­tant coaches, does not speak to the me­dia dur­ing the sea­son. He speaks to the play­ers plenty dur­ing the week, though.

“His coach­ing style? If you mess up, he yells,” sopho­more guard Sadar­ius Hutch­er­son said. “He’ll yell al­most ev­ery time. At the end of the day, on Satur­days it’s so much eas­ier. He doesn’t yell on Satur­day.”

The idea, Camper said, is to make prac­tices harder than games.

“We have a Game­cocks stan­dard, you could say,” Camper said. “The of­fen­sive line has a stan­dard for our­selves that we want to play at the high­est level we can. His push on us re­ally helps us know the bet­ter we play on the prac­tice field the bet­ter we play in the game. That’s some­thing he re­ally stresses.”

Cen­ter Donell Stan­ley and guards Hutch­er­son and Zack Bai­ley have started ev­ery game this sea­son and played al­most ev­ery snap, but there hasn’t been nearly that kind of sta­bil­ity at of­fen­sive tackle. The Game­cocks have started four play­ers at tackle due to in­juries and the de­vel­op­ment of true fresh­man Dy­lan Won­num.

This week, the Game­cocks are pre­par­ing for Florida with three of those tack­les — Camper, Den­nis Da­ley and Ma­lik Young — slowed by mi­nor in­juries. Camper started the sea­son at right tackle but fin­ished last week’s 48-44 win over Ole Miss at left tackle. Wol­ford has pre­pared his line­man since the off­sea­son for the pos­si­bil­ity of mov­ing around dur­ing the sea­son. “He just re­ally em­pha­sizes that play­ers know dif­fer­ent po­si­tions. He switches it up cer­tain days of the week. One day you could be at one po­si­tion, the next day you’re at an­other,” Camper said. “It helps pre­pare you for any kind of sit­u­a­tion that could hap­pen. I was happy I could go in and play ef­fec­tively and help the team win. I look for­ward to this week­end and see­ing how it plays out.”

The Game­cocks (5-3 over­all, 4-3 SEC) take on No. 19 Florida (6-3, 4-3) on Satur­day at noon in Ben Hill Grif­fin Sta­dium. South Carolina is fourth in the SEC in sacks al­lowed per game at 1.38, a statis­tic that will be tested by the blitz-happy Ga­tors, who are third in the con­fer­ence in sacks per game at 2.56.

The Game­cocks be­lieve Wol­ford has them pre­pared.

“When you’re de­mand­ing and you get pos­i­tive re­sults, play­ers re­spect that,” Muschamp said. “I think he’s got a good bal­ance of be­ing very de­mand­ing but also be­ing very fair, and our play­ers un­der­stand the re­sults they get.”

TIM DOMINICK tdo­minick@thes­

USC of­fen­sive line coach Eric Wol­ford joined the staff in 2017.

Blake Camper

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