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December 4, 2013

Sleeper stars of 2013: Clayton Stadnik

With the regular season over and a sparkling 10-2 record in the books, Gamecock Central is counting down the five biggest surprise stars of this past season, players who very few, if any, would have picked to have the kind of big years they did.

Each day this week we're profiling a player leading up to Friday's No. 1. Let's have some fun!

No. 3 Clayton Stadnik

Not only wasn't Clayton Stadnik considered the best offensive line recruit of the 2012 class, he wasn't considered the best offensive line recruit in his own house.

Perceived by many as a throw-in scholarship so the Gamecocks could land his highly regarded twin brother, four-star lineman Brock (6-foot-5, 285), Clayton (6-2, 255) was the lowest-rated three-star recruit South Carolina signed.

Talk about coming in with a chip on your shoulder.

Since arriving on campus, all Clayton has done is work his tail off in the weight room, adding an inch and 30 pounds to claim the backup center position heading into the season. (Brock, on the other hand, has added one pound, according to the USC media guide).

That alone would have been a nice accomplishment for a freshman lineman, but bigger things were in store.

When starting center Cody Waldrop sprained his foot against North Carolina, suddenly Stadnik found himself in the starting role. He performed brilliantly on the road under the circumstances, and followed up his debut with a game against Vanderbilt that earned him SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week honors. Against the Commodores, Stadnik graded out at 82 percent, played all 87 snaps at center and helped the Gamecocks record the second-highest offensive yardage total (579) of the Steve Spurrier era.

He didn't start the following week at UCF, but he started the next five games (Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri, Mississippi State) until Waldrop returned for the final three games of the year.

For a player few thought would amount to much other than a depth-chart filler, Stadnik showed its not about your stars in high school but what you do when you get to campus that counts.

And now, with he and Waldrop both freshmen this year, the future of the center position looks stout for a long time to come.



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