Following Saturday's win over Florida, Steve Spurrier was so impressed with the performance of true freshman tackle Mike Matulis that he gave him a game ball and mentioned that in his post-game press conference. After watching film from the game, offensive line coach Shawn Elliott was not as impressed as the head coach was Saturday.
"Early on he got handled in pass protection by big Shariff Floyd," Elliott said Wednesday. "He settled down a little bit and understood what he had to do and then we started to run the football a lot more. He can do a heck of a lot better in his pass protection – he has to do it."
South Carolina only attempted 13 passes in the 17-12 win over the Gators due in large part to the legs of running back Brandon Wilds and quarterback Connor Shaw, who combined to rush for 214 yards. Matulis will get the start again this week against the Citadel, but Elliott would like to get redshirt freshman Cody Gibson more playing time. It was Gibson that was initially chosen to replace senior Kyle Nunn when he was injured, but has struggled with pass blocking all season.
"The plan is to try and get as many players as we can ready to play," Elliott said. "Cody's done okay. He hasn't done great, but Mike was put into a situation last week had we thrown the ball around he would have looked pretty bad himself. We ran the football and at times when Cody was in there when we were running the football and Cody did well too. They both struggle at pass protection. They've got the run protection down pretty well."
That has been a problem that has seemingly plagued the offensive line all season. Numerous times Shaw has been forced out of the pocket from lack of protection. Elliott believes his oldest players have been the best at pass blocking.
"T Camp (Terrence Campbell) does a very nice job, Rokevious (Watkins) when he's on his game can protect really well," Elliott said. "At times they can all protect pretty well."
With a game against the Citadel coming up, Carolina should be able to get plenty of players plenty of reps.
"I would definitely like to get a lot of people reps this week," Elliott said. "Especially Cody and Mike Matulis – guys that you have to count on to play here in the next few weeks. They've got to get more game reps."
After the regular season, the Gamecocks will once again head to a bowl game. Going to a bowl has become the norm around the program, something that hasn't been the case most of its history. Those extra weeks of practice will play huge dividends for the young guys on the offensive line, including Matulis and Gibson.
"The greatest thing about the bowl system is you get all those weeks to prepare for next year," Elliott said. "You get four additional weeks of practice and that's valuable time and valuable reps that you can't take away from them."
Matulis to start again against the Citadel
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