South Carolina coach Shane Beamer delivered an impassioned defense of his offensive line Tuesday.
The Gamecocks dropped their season opener to then-No. 21 UNC 31-17 Saturday in Charlotte. And the offensive line caught much of the blame for it. The front five’s lackluster play contributed to South Carolina’s struggle with the run game and quarterback Spencer Rattler’s staggering nine sacks.
Despite its struggles, Beamer remains confident in the group.
“I know, right now, they’re the easy targets to criticize,” Beamer said. “Well, ‘Get your shots in now,’ is what I would tell people. And then when they start playing their ass(es) off as this year goes throughout the season, make sure you’re giving them credit.”
The offensive line has had its fair share of struggles lately.
Jaylen Nichols, who suffered a knee injury in the spring, was supposed to be a starting offensive tackle. Cason Henry started Saturday but left the game injured and has now been ruled out for Furman this week. Dylan Wonnum, Jovaughyn Gwyn and Eric Douglas, starters from last season, are no longer with the program, which is more than a dozen years’ worth of experience gone.
“It’s been hard, continuity wise, just to get a solid five,” Beamer said.
“... Schematically, I think after a game you always get a better idea of who you are and maybe where you may struggle. Some things you do well that you see after playing a quality opponent like we did that you adjust some things schematically. Add, tweak, take out, whatever it might be. But then certainly you look at personnel and get your best five on the field.”
Beamer, along with linemen Nick Gargiulo and Vershon Lee, talked Tuesday about how the unit didn’t play technically or fundamentally sound.
But they have faith in their personnel and their ability to quickly resolve these issues.
“I thought they were really good today (Tuesday at practice),” Beamer said. “... I thought the whole team came out there with a good temperament about themselves and eagerness to get back out on the field.”
Gargiulo and Lee said they’re looking for the group to grow more each day and play with more cohesion against Furman this weekend. Execution and ability to protect the quarterback are the metrics they’ll use to measure their growth.
“It’s a 12-week season,” Gargiulo said. “One week happened. The season’s three months long. We’re gonna do everything we can to correct it and come back as a better unit on Saturday.”