South Carolina Football: Countdown to kickoff – 7

The 2014 college football season kicks off in 178 hours and counting. For South Carolina football, preparation for Texas A&M began on Monday, meaning the coaches have a good idea of how the depth chart will look and what to expect from their respective units on August 28th. Since practices have been closed for the last two weeks however, those of us in the general public and the media have nothing to do but read these columns and speculate among ourselves. That said, here are 7 questions that will hopefully make for entertaining and provocative discussions over the next 7 days:

7) Who will take over at right guard?

Presumed starter at right guard, Mike Matulis, limped out of the Gamecocks’ final scrimmage with what was initially, if optimistically, diagnosed as a severely sprained knee.

Matulis was looking to bring experience and talent to the only spot on the offensive line not occupied by an incumbent. Beyond his role in what many anticipate will be the best offensive line in the SEC, this year was the year that Matulis was finally going to shake his horrible run of luck that saw him miss the first half of his Gamecock football career with multiple shoulder surgeries.

As a freshman eyeing a redshirt year, Matulis was thrust into action when left tackle Kyle Nunn went down midway through the season. After playing a little left tackle, he eventually settled in at right tackle and even earned Freshman All-American honors from Sporting News.

Going into his sophomore season, Matulis had talent, experience, and several more years to play. Before the halfway point of the 2012 season though, Matulis had a shoulder injury that required surgery and was shut down for the remainder of the season.

The following summer, Matulis, who was primed for a big comeback, injured his other shoulder and had to miss the entire 2013 season as well.

This year, as Tony Morrell of TheBigSpur, told 107.5 “The Game”‘s Halftime Show Monday, an ACL injury may have been closer to reality for Matulis. As of Monday however, Steve Spurrier maintained that the training staff would try to rehab the knee, avoid surgery, and potentially have him back by mid-October (per Gamecockcentral).

In his absence, Cody Waldrop will slide over to the right guard spot, making Clayton Stadnik the guy at center. Whether or not Waldrop starts there on the 28th is to be determined.

Redshirt Junior Will Sport is listed as Matulis backup on the depth chart and could well challenge Waldrop for the starting spot at guard as well as backup right tackle Na’ty Rodgers.

Rodgers was highly recruited out of high school and after redshirting his freshman year would have been expected to figure into Coach Shawn Elliott’s plans for 2014. Rodgers has seemingly not been able to put it all together yet and is still a bit undersized (officially listed at 280) to play guard in the SEC, especially considering no one else on the South Carolina offensive line is under 300.

How much will losing Matulis this late in the game affect the production of the Gamecock’s offensive line in a year when the expectations are at an all time high?