Will Muschamp has his deepest and most talented team this season, with plenty of depth on both sides of the ball.
On offense, there is depth at running back, wide receiver, tight end and even quarterback. On defense, the line is the deepest it has been in years and there is plenty of depth at linebacker in front of a talented secondary.
But the spot Muschamp is most concerned about entering training camp is the offensive line, which must replace two key starters and two experienced backups.
"The ability is there, and I'm excited about that. We are more athletic and more powerful than we've been, but we have got to find that best five and even that six, seven and eight,” Muschamp said. “Where those guys end up, I am not really sure at this point. We'll see how that plays out.”
The offensive line is led by returning starters Donell Stanley, Sadarius Hutcherson and Dylan Wonnum. Stanley, a sixth-year senior, has started for three seasons and will move from center back to guard. Hutcherson, a two-year starter, has moved from guard to left tackle. Wonnum returns at right tackle, where he started as a true freshman last season.
There is competition at center and the other guard spot. Redshirt freshman Hank Manos, who started in the Belk Bowl, and junior Chandler Farrell will battle for the center job. Redshirt freshman Jovaughn Gwyn and sophomores Eric Douglas and Jordan Rhodes are competing for the other guard spot.
Stanley, the oldest player on the team at 24, believes the offensive line can be the best he’s seen in his six years at South Carolina.
“We can be as good as we want to be,” he said. “I think with me and Sadarius leading this group, we can’t have any failures or people who are not wanting to come along. We had a great offseason and I feel confident in this group. We have as much depth as we have ever had.”
Stanley is the key to the offensive line. He was a freshman on Steve Spurrier’s last 11-win team and played in 12 games on the 2015 team that finished 3-9. He was a starter on Muschamp’s first team in 2016, but missed most of the season after suffering a high-ankle sprain. He has started at guard and center the past two seasons and has 26 career starts.
He’s not only the leader of the offensive line, but one of the senior leaders of the team.
“He’s critical,” Muschamp said. “He's an outstanding example for our players every day with the way he goes about his business, the way he works, the way he approaches the game, the way he approaches practice, the weight room. He's a great example for our young offensive linemen to see how you do things the right way."
Stanley has fought through adversity throughout his career but it has taught him how to lead. He can relate to this year’s freshman class, which was in the seventh grade when he began his college career.
“These younger guys, they are different,” he said. “I’ve seen everything and been through everything. [I tell them], ‘for y’all to come in and think you are going to take somebody’s spot or that this team owes you anything, you are wrong.’ I think they look up to me and always ask questions. I try to point them in the right direction, and I take pride in that. I want to do them right because I have been in their shoes.”