COLUMBIA -- Jamon Meredith's talent is such that he might be a pro this time next year. When NFL scouts come to South Carolina, they ask the coaches about the big offensive linemen.
All that has to wait. For now, Meredith is waiting, wondering and working his tail off just to get on the field -- and that won't even be until the third game.
"Right now I'm just trying to start on this offensive line first before I worry about playing on Sundays," Meredith said with a laugh.
Meredith is in a strange spot, and therefore so are the Gamecocks. Due to an NCAA ruling that is neither Meredith nor the current staff's fault, the senior has to sit the first two games of this season. Since he plays the line's most important position, protecting the quarterback's blind side at left tackle, USC has big decisions ahead before its first and third games.
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The Gamecocks would rather not move right tackle Justin Sorensen over to the left side just for two games. So three younger players -- Hutch Eckerson, Quintin Richardson and Jarriel King -- are competing to play the left spot for the first two games.
If one of them does well, Meredith may start the third game at one of the guard spots. Assuming he starts at all.
Not the normal scenario for an NFL prospect.
"It could be a lot worse. I could be out of eligilbity," Meredith said. "I could have been forced into a situation where I had to take my career to the next level. I'm glad I have the opportunity to play another year. I got to graduate, I got my degree, I got everything taken care of.
"I'll miss two games, but it's not the end of the world."
This dates back to Meredith's first season at USC, when he played three snaps against Vanderbilt for former coach Lou Holtz. Two years later, the NCAA granted Meredith a redshirt season, with the proviso of missing the first two games of this season.
Offensive line coach John Hunt said Meredith's position depends on how the line plays the first two games.
"I told Jamon this fall like I did last spring that I'm going to move him around to different positions," Hunt said. "I've gotta find out who's gonna play that the first couple games. He's been really good with it. He's been playing a little guard, a little tackle."
As far as a pro career, this is a key season for Meredith, who can concentrate on football because he graduated in May. (He's still taking graduate classes.) He has the right build -- 6-5 and 301 pounds -- and the recommendation of his fellow senior tackle.
"I'm a big tall guy who's strong. Jamon's got a lot more athletic ability than I do," Sorensen said.
Could they both play in the pros?
"I think he's got a good shot," Sorensen said. "I've gotta see about me."
The pro stock will be helped if the pair can anchor a resurgent line. Meredith said he doesn't mind whether he's playing tackle or guard, as long as he plays. And he doesn't complain about his unusual predicament.
"That's life. Sometimes you've just gotta play with the cards you've been dealt," he said. "It just shows I can come out of adversity, I'm versatile, I can move around if I needed to, and it shows I'm unselfish."