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August 24, 2010

He's Chris Vaughn, He'll Be Playing Center

Chris Vaughn wishes he could do it all over again, although he doesn't regret the result.

Asked to introduce himself to his teammates on his first day of being a South Carolina offensive lineman, Vaughn stood up and did so. "I'm Chris Vaughn, I'm going to be playing center," he said.

Blank stares. Dead silence.

Until he got to practice.

"I'm Chris Vaughn, I'm going to be playing center," came the cat-call from the corner of the locker room while Vaughn was tying his shoes. "I'm Chris Vaughn, I'm going to be playing center," chortled the cry as Vaughn walked to the practice field, wearing his new garnet No. 69 jersey after wearing white No. 67 for three years.

"They just kind of mocked me, impersonated me," Vaughn good-naturedly said on Monday. "They picked on me a little bit, just being the new guy. It was all harmless."

But even with the teasing, Vaughn is glad to be where he is. The Gamecocks were running short on offensive linemen, Vaughn had started at center at Irmo High School for four years, he was competing with Walker Inabinet and Matthew Grooms for second-string deep snapper ...

Plus coach Steve Spurrier asked him to.

"Coach Spurrier came over after practice, after Ryan Broadhead tore his ACL and was gone for the year," Vaughn said. "He knew I played offensive line and he told me about it, and I was excited to be able to help the team out whenever I can."

So he traded in his defensive playbook for an offensive one and reported to the far corner of the Bluff Road fields, instead of warming up for the first part of practice with the special-teamers and then heading to Williams-Brice Stadium to finish.

Different world, but one with which he was at least somewhat familiar.

"We work hard enough on the specialist group to get the job done on Saturday, but it's a big step in the work ethic going over to play offensive line with coach (Shawn) Elliott," Vaughn said. "It was a little bit intimidating. I knew most of the guys. The rest of them knew me. I hadn't had a one-on-one time with coach Elliott, and he's an intense guy. But he's an awesome coach."

The line has been a constant question mark, even before the season began. When first Quintin Richardson, then Nick Allison, then Broadhead went out with injuries or other issues, the line was down to 13 players.

Vaughn came over to help improve the number to 14, but it quickly dwindled to as small as nine as other injuries occurred. With projected starter Terrence Campbell out for at least a week with a high ankle sprain (he said he'll be fine for the Sept. 2 season-opener), each of the linemen have had to learn all positions.

The newest one is sticking to center, where he'll back up starter T.J. Johnson and most likely backup Ronald Patrick. And Vaughn is under no illusions on where he falls in the pecking order.

"Depth. That's about it," Elliott bluntly said. "He's a guy we need there for reps."

It's still fun. Vaughn has never played in a game during his three years on the team and perhaps this will be his breakthrough. If not, he's enjoying the experience anyway.

Which makes it OK when his teammates remind him that he's Chris Vaughn and he's going to be playing center.

"I've ended up on the ground a couple of times, but that's from getting stepped on. It's pretty tough when I go one-on-one with Travian (Robertson)," Vaughn said. "But I've done pretty well, especially in the scrimmages. I get a good many reps and I've done pretty well, according to coach Elliott.

"I feel pretty good about it. I'm just going to do everything that I can right now. If they need me to go on the field, I'm going to go out and give 100 percent and give the best I can do."


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