A.J. Cann never played for Eric Wolford, but being recruited by him was plenty intense.
“I could tell by the look on his face during recruitment,” Cann told The State. “I mean, he looked me in my eyes the whole time. I was like, ‘Dang, this guy means business.’ ”
Wolford, most recently an assistant offensive line coach for the San Francisco 49ers, was hired by USC coach Will Muschamp on Monday to be South Carolina’s offensive line coach for the second time in his career. Wolford’s first stint with the Gamecocks was in 2009 under Steve Spurrier, and it was then he recruited Cann, then a four-star offensive line prospect out of Bamberg, to come to South Carolina.
“He was like, ‘I am not promising you that you’ll come in and play. I don’t know if you will or not, but I’m telling you that you have an opportunity to play and a chance to compete,’ ” Cann said. “I liked that about him. He was a very straightforward guy.”
Also a very intense guy in the spring practices Cann watched while being recruited by the Gamecocks.
“He was getting after it,” said Cann, now the starting right guard for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
When Wolford, who wasn’t available for comment, coached at South Carolina in 2009, he gave an offensive lineman who had struggled during a game a pink boa as a “prize,” offensive lineman T.J. Johnson told The State at the time. Those who played well were awarded with a hammer or an axe, Johnson said.
“Normally for a guard, (the hammer) is whenever a tackle (blocks) an end, and the guard gets to blindside the guy. That’s my favorite,” Johnson told The State after South Carolina’s season-opening win over N.C. State in 2009.
The Gamecocks finished 2009 last in the SEC in rushing offense with 121.3 yards per game. Kenny Miles led South Carolina in rushing that season with 626 yards.
Cann expects Wolford to be able to improve those numbers with a veteran offensive line and running back Rico Dowdle and company in 2017.
“He was one of those guys that’s determined,” Cann said. “He’s very exact in what he does.”