When it was all said and done last year, the Gamecocks 2016 offensive line ranked last in the SEC in sacks allowed (41), tied for last in yards per attempt rushing (3.7), and second to last in rushing yards gained.
2017 is a new year and hope springs eternal. Everyone except one lineman (LT Mason Zandi) is back. A skeptic has room to worry. Will the same linemen dramatically improve their performance in 2017?
The noise suggests the answer is, yes. Alan Knott (@poppa_A) missed most of the 2016 preseason conditioning recovering from injuries, and @CoryHelms7251 was dogged during the season by a leg injury. Knott should be much stronger, and Helms less prone to whiffing blocks. According to the reports, the Gamecock linemen have all worked diligently in the weight room under @Jeff_Dillman’s S&C program. Things have to be better just because of the players extra year experience and conditioning in the weight room.
The big change on the line for 2017 is moving @MalikYoung77 from right tackle to left tackle and @ZackaryDBailey from guard to right tackle. Bailey is a talent and there are no worries with him. Young is described by @GamecocksFB OL Coach @FBCoachWolf as his most athletic offensive lineman. Both Bailey and Young are going to need athleticism against the NC State DEs. They are beasts.
@bigdonnel72 is replacing Zandi. However, Stanley won the starting guard slot for 2016 over Knott, but suffered a season-ending injury in the first game. He is back and healthy for 2017.
One thing of note. This projected O-line is light. The average weight is just north of 300 pounds, which may make them one of the lightest offensive lines in Power 5 football. Maybe the Gamecocks are not going to smash over people like the @FootballUGA or @AlabamaFtbl. But on the other hand, the Atlanta Falcons OL averages only around 304 pounds and that suits them fine with their strategy of threatening the edges of a defense.
Finally, in January, Eric Wolford replaced Shawn Elliott as the OL coach for the 2017. Wolford, a former head coach at Youngstown State, came to the Gamecocks after spending the last two years as an offensive line coach for the San Francisco 49ers. In February, Wolford said he intends to play the five best guys. That may indicate some shuffling could take place as players compete in fall pre-season practices.