South Carolina has a 16-member class that was honored on Senior Day before the 34-13 win over Clemson. In the buildup to bowl season, we’ll reminisce over the career of each player in a Gamecock uniform.
Rokevious Watkins – Fairburn, Ga. – Georgia Military
Committing to Carolina: Watkins was the lesser-known of two junior college offensive linemen that enrolled at South Carolina in 2009. Most knew and had high hopes for former LSU player Steven Singleton, but it was Watkins who made the biggest impact. The 6-foot-4, 340-pounder played his junior college football at Georgia Military College and was ranked the 26th-best JC player in the country by SuperPrep. He picked the Gamecocks over an offer from University of Alabama-Birmingham.
Early years: Entering with three years to play two, Watkins redshirted his first year on campus. There were struggles on the offensive line some that season and when former defensive end now NFLer Eric Norwood said that the best offensive lineman was Watkins, who was on the scout team, many called for him to play that season. However, the ‘shirt was kept on and it would benefit him his final two seasons at South Carolina.
As a redshirt junior, Watkins started all 14 games. The first two came at right guard but he moved to the left side of center for the Furman game when Garrett Chisolm missed the game due to the death of a family member. He started every game at right guard until the bowl game, which he started at left guard due to an injury to Chisolm. He was part of an offensive line that paved the way for Marcus Lattimore to rush for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first season in a South Carolina uniform.
Final campaign: This year, Watkins moved out to the right tackle position to start the year. He was named a preseason third-team All-SEC selection according to Phil Steele. He projects as a guard at the next level, but offensive line coach Shawn Elliott felt as though he could make this team’s line the best by playing tackle.
After an injury to left tackle Kyle Nunn, Watkins flipped to the blind side midway through the fifth game of the season and he’s been there ever since. Watkins is known more for his run blocking than pass protection skills but he’s held his own out on the island, which has helped to improve his NFL Draft stock. The Gamecocks’ offensive line has played much better the final few games of the regular season, including a 34-13 whopping of Clemson, but Watkins has been pretty steady for most of the season.
Career highlights: As silly as it may seem, the legend of Watkins first started when Norwood said that he was one of the best offensive linemen he’s ever gone up against at any level. Jaws dropped, and people wanted to know just why he was on the scout team.
One of the best games that Watkins played was his junior season against Georgia. A run-blocking specialist, the wide-bodied guard moved the pile and the offensive front dominated a 3-4 Bulldogs defense. Watkins helped pave the way for Lattimore to rush for 182 yards on 37 carries and two touchdowns.
Senior Rokevious Watkins has started games at both guards and both tackle positions during his career at South Carolina.
Final stats: With one game still remaining, Watkins has started all 27 games of his South Carolina career. He has 12 starts at right guard, two starts at left guard, five starts at right tackle, and seven at left tackle. He once joked that he’d play center, long snapper, or punter if he was needed.
What they said:
He’s a guy that has done everything we’ve asked of him. He’s played guard, right tackle, left tackle – very unselfish. He’ll do anything for the team. Really enjoy him and the personality of him. He’s really a fun guy. – offensive line coach Shawn Elliott
He’s an offensive tackle and he’s helped me out a lot. He’s taught me to set in the three and to stay low and really punch. He’s taught me to stay low in my set, especially with me being a lighter guy. - freshman offensive lineman Mike Matulis
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