He has numerous advantages over others in a similar situation. He knows the system and is surrounded by some outstanding players at other positions.
“He does have a solid group that starts ahead of him,” Elliott said. “The offensive line, the perimeter guys, multiple tight ends that can do a lot for him. That will help him.”
Left guard Shamarious Gilmore
His name is Shamarious, but his friends call him Quion (Da’Quion is his middle name) or Kwon. The 6-3, 295-pound senior from Drew High is a three-year starter and last year helped the team set school records for rushing yards and total offense.
Gilmore is the most decorated player on the team. He was an honorable mention All-Sun Belt choice in 2017 and 2018, a third-team selection in 2019 and a first-team preseason selection this season. He was named to the watch list for the Outland Trophy.
“He’s been playing forever,” Elliott said. “I don’t know many snaps he’s had, but he’s almost played every down the last three seasons. That’s crazy to think about. He’s seen so much football, he just has great knowledge and knows what to expect. No moment is too big for him.”
Gilmore is one of four returning starters on one of the most experienced group of returning linemen in the conference.
Nose guard Dontae Wilson
He’s quiet by nature, but the Jefferson native makes a lot of noise with his play. A two-year starter, Wilson (6-0, 275) was an honorable mention All-Sun Belt selection in 2019 and earned a second-team nod on the 2020 preseason team.
Wilson had 47 tackles, seven tackles for loss and three sacks as a junior. His was at his best against the tricky running attack of Army, where he made 10 tackles in a game played during heavy rain. Wilson ranks third on the school’s all-time list with 8.5 career sacks and is eighth with 16 tackles for loss. He needs two sacks to tie Mackendy Cheridor (2013-17) for the all-time lead.
“He’s the heart of the defense,” Elliott said. “That’s why we’ve got him in the middle. He will continue to do his thing … being disruptive and playing as hard as he can.”