A lot has been said about the play of running back Marcus Lattimore this season. He truly has been nothing short of amazing. However, it can’t be overlooked how much the offensive line has improved this season. The unit has gone from one of the worst in the SEC to one that has opened enough holes for Lattimore to rush for 180 plus yards in three games this season.
No, the Gamecocks aren’t a dominate unit, but they are a better unit. And the best news for USC is that the unit is still improving. The Gamecocks are averaging 155.9 yards rushing per game. They are seventh in the SEC and 56th nationally in that category. A year ago USC was last in the SEC in rushing yards and one of the worst running teams in the country.
The line is also doing a better job of protecting Stephen Garcia. The Gamecocks were tied for last in the SEC in sacks allowed last season, this season they are 9th in the league. Again, nothing to write home about, but a sign of progress. Garcia was only sacked once in Saturday night’s win at Florida.
Click below for more and audio from T.J. Johnson and Hutch Eckerson.
The play of redshirt sophomore center T.J. Johnson is one of the reasons the line has made strides forward. Outside of some errant snaps, he’s played flawlessly most all of the season. Johnson was able to return from a knee injury against Arkansas and play last week against Florida. At the center position he makes a lot of the line calls and his role on the offensive line is invaluable. Lattimore mentioned Johnson’s name as a big reason why he’s had success this season.
Hutch Eckerson has made 23 career starts during his career. The senior tackle has improved as much as any of the returning starters on the team. He was injured in the Georgia game and missed the Furman and Auburn games but has started every game since the Alabama game.
It’s true that no one ever really talks about the offensive line until mess up or play poorly and entering this season the Gamecock offensive line seemed to be a regular target of Steve Spurrier, the media and the fans. This season you haven’t heard much about the unit, which means its doing its job.