CHARLESTON, S.C. – Throughout fall camp, we'll provide positional previews of Charleston Southern's 2018 team as the Bucs build toward the opener in Gainesville. Today, we take a look at the offensive line.
Projected Starters: LT Brackin Smith, LG Stephen Haralambis, C Joe Gold, RG Caleb Brannon, RT Gage Bostwick
Other Returners: Jarrod Downer, Zack Evans, Leroy Henry, Christian Lewis, Daviyon McDaniel, JT Melton, JD Rice, Alex Thompson, D'Andra Thompson, Travis White
Lost: Frank Cirone, Jackson Williamson, Nick Tononi, Ryan Hiller
Additions/Newcomers: Caleb Brame, Preston Nichols, Bailey Ottaway, Darian Reeves
Three Things to Watch
Plenty of experience
Nine of the ten offensive linemen on CSU's preseason two-deep are in their fourth or fifth seasons in the program. The lone exception is backup left guard JT Melton, a redshirt freshman who headlines a promising group of underclassmen. Offensive line coach Matt White likes the makeup of his group.
"We've got a great mix of older guys who've played a ton of reps, and then a lot of young guys with a ton of talent," White said. "We've got a long way to go but I'm really encouraged by the progress we've made in just a few days."
Gold back from injury
Joe Gold is a versatile interior lineman who returns after missing all of 2017 due to an injury suffered during the final week of fall camp. Gold, who started eight games for the Bucs' 2016 Big South championship team, has experience at center and guard. He transferred to CSU in 2015 after starting six games as a true freshman at Florida Atlantic in 2014.
"Joe's played a lot of football here and at the FBS level so it's a big deal to have him back," White said. "He's just a natural leader that the guys kind of flock to."
White assumes leadership of unit
White assisted Ron Hudson with the offensive line last year, and now takes over the unit following Hudson's departure for Georgia Southern. Learning under the veteran Hudson, with whom White formed a relationship as a high school and junior college coach in California, has prepared him to lead the o-line.
"I couldn't even tell you how important it was to get to learn from Coach Tucker, and get exposed to his knowledge of the triple option, and then Coach Hudson, who's been coaching since I've been alive," White said. "It was invaluable."
White will be assisted by a familiar face in offensive intern Jackson Williamson. Williamson started all 51 games of his CSU career and was a pivotal part of the Bucs' turnaround dating back to 2013.
Player Spotlight – Gage Bostwick
87 – Combined number of games started by Williamson and Frank Cirone, who both graduated last year. Williamson set the CSU record for games played, while Cirone was a two-time All-Big South Conference selection.
21 – Combined starts made by tackle Brackin Smith and guard Stephen Haralambis in 2017. The duo forms a strong, veteran left side of the line that should power the Bucs' running game and protect quarterback London Johnson's blind side.
200 – Last year marked the first time since 2011 that CSU failed to rush for at least 200 yards per game. The Bucs ranked top-20 nationally in rushing offense from 2013-16 and were still a solid 26th last season. More consistent production on the ground, though, figures to be crucial if CSU is to contend for its third league title in four years.
CSU will hold its first full-contact practice today at 2:55 p.m.