COLUMBIA — Before the season even starts, the Gamecocks are down two offensive linemen, including one starter from last season, while adding two SEC West opponents to the schedule.
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp announced Wednesday that Jordan Rhodes and Mark Fox are opting out of the 2020 season because of Coronavirus concerns, leaving the Gamecocks to fill the spots both leave, especially Rhodes.
“Jazston Turnetine would probably be our left tackle, we’ve moved (Sadarius) Hutcherson back inside to guard,” Muschamp said. “Eric Douglas and Hank Manos continue to battle at the center position. Vinnie Murphy can obviously figure in there as well. Jovaughn Gwyn at right guard and Dylan Wonnum at right tackle.”
With Rhodes opting out and the Gamecocks losing the longtime line mainstay from Latta - Donell Stanley - to graduation, it means South Carolina will need to replace two starters on the offensive line entering 2020.
Rhodes started 12 games last season at left guard and the Gamecocks are shifting Hutcherson to that spot after he played left tackle all of last year.
Junior college transfer Turnetine — the biggest player on the roster at 6-foot-6, 337 pounds — seems like the presumed starter at left guard with Gwyn at guard and Wonnum at tackle rounding out the right side of the line.
Gwyn and Wonnum have combined for 25 career starts.
The biggest question will be who starts at center with the Gamecocks testing out a handful of players at the position during preseason camp.
Eric Douglas, Hank Manos and Vincent Murphy took the bulk of reps there in the spring, but Muschamp said a few more players will see snaps there in the preseason.
“Obviously Hank and Eric, but you’ll see Vershon Lee, you’ll see Jovaughn Gwyn. It’s a bad day when you run out of centers as far as snaps are concerned,” he said. “You’ll see Vinnie Murphy (there) as well as at guard. Those guys will rep at center. They’ll snap the ball to all four quarterbacks every day.”
Along with those guys the Gamecocks have two second-year players in Jakai Moore and Jaylen Nichols who started games last year at tackle and will factor into the offensive line competitions as well.
If Douglas doesn’t win the starting center job, he is a versatile piece the Gamecocks could use at guard and tackle coming off the bench.
“We feel Jakai and Jaylen, who played tackle last year, can play inside for us,” Muschamp said. “That creates flexibility and depth to have the best available player on the field. Those guys will be part of that conversation. Vershon Lee has been very impressive so far.”