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August 23, 2014

Gibson enjoys move to tight end



When South Carolina's coaches asked Cody Gibson over the summer if he'd like to try working at tight end this preseason, the fifth-year senior was all for it.

Three days into preseason practice, the coaching staff had seen enough. Gibson, an offensive lineman who had dropped to roughly 270 pounds this summer, would be a tight end for good.

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"I never got to play a skill position until now, so it's a good change of pace to be able to be playing tight end out there and helping everyone out," Gibson said recently, adding later: "It feels good to lose some weight and be able to run around a little bit."

Shedding about 25 pounds over the offseason left Gibson leaner and speedier, but also less capable of competing with hulking redshirt freshman Na'Ty Rodgers for second-team snaps at right tackle.

With two-year starter Brandon Shell unlikely to budge from the top spot at right tackle, Gibson found the idea of a move to tight end, where his 6-foot-7 frame makes him valuable as an extra blocker in the rushing game, quite appealing.

"I love it. It's just more opportunities to get on the field and help the team out," said Gibson, a former three-star tackle. "And it's my last season, so I want to play as much as I can and get out there."

Gibson said he's worked with offensive line coach Shawn Elliott and Scott Spurrier, the team's quality control coordinator on offense, on making the transition.

Receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. has tossed Gibson passes after practice to soften his hands, and tight ends Rory Anderson and Jerell Adams have been willing tutors, Gibson said.

"They teach me steps and how to plant and cut, how to run routes and take angles and everything," Gibson said. "It's nice for them to take their time out."

USC tried a similar experiment last season with backup left tackle Mason Zandi. The 6-foot-9, 301-pound redshirt freshman wore his normal No. 74 jersey when used as a lineman, but he switched into a No. 83 uniform when the Gamecocks wanted a bigger-bodied tight end on the field.

Zandi never caught a pass and ultimately returned to the offensive line, but Gibson said he's wearing his new No. 90 tight end jersey for good.

Gibson said USC has slotted him into the same packages Mason Zandi played in last season, and that the coaches are using him as one of the tight ends when the Gamecocks run two-tight end sets.

The Tallahassee, Florida, native is mainly a run-blocking tight end, but he's also running routes as well.

Learning the routes, formations and hand signals have been the hardest part of the switch, Gibson said, adding that while he never envisioned himself playing a tight end, catching passes has been a nice change of pace.

"It's cool to go out there for a pass," Gibson said. "It's nice to get out there and show them what I can do."



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