Nobody is ready to proclaim South Carolina's offensive line as the best in the SEC or even one of the top two or three.
But the Gamecocks were significantly better up front than they were a year ago and played big in some of their biggest games this season.
Credit first-year offensive line coach Shawn Elliott for bringing stability to an area that has been a constant source of concern under Steve Spurrier. Of course, when you change offensive line coaches every year, you're not going to have a whole lot of stability.
Elliott was the Gamecocks' third offensive line coach in as many years, and for a change, they're actually going to have an offensive line coach for the bowl game. Eric Wolford left for the Youngstown State head coaching job prior to the bowl game last season. And two years ago, Spurrier fired longtime offensive line coach John Hunt prior to the Outback Bowl.
Over and above stability, Elliott has also brought a toughness and an edge to South Carolina's offensive line that might have been missing in the past. The Gamecocks protected the quarterback better this season and took their running game to another level with freshman Marcus Lattimore stepping in and rushing for 1,198 yards. Elliott is also the Gamecocks' running game coordinator, and the zone read part of the offense that was so successful with Lattimore was something he brought with him from Appalachian State.
Elliott could face one of his toughest challenges in the Chick-fil-A Bowl matchup with Florida State. The Gamecocks' best lineman this season, senior left guard Garrett Chisolm, hurt his knee last week and could be iffy for the bowl game. That means some guys may have to play in different spots if Chisolm can't play.
Plus, the Seminoles rank second nationally with 46 sacks.
A year ago, there would have been some real concern in South Carolina's camp going into this game, but Elliott has raised the Gamecocks' level of play up front considerably.
Better yet, it looks like he's going to be around for a while.