Nick Bach stood along the sidelines in awe.
Bach, the head coach at Pace Academy in Atlanta, had only been on the job a few months when his squad scrimmaged the Wesleyan School in early August.
Exploding out of his break, South Carolina offensive lineman commit Trovon Baugh fired off the line. He collided with a pair of defenders, pancaking both at the same time. He continued his course downfield, paving the way for a Pace runner. Meeting a helpless defensive back, Bough plowed through him for his third pancake of the play.
“My eyes kind of popped out of my head like, ‘Wow,’ “ Bach told The State. “It kind of reminded me of ‘The Blind Side,’ when that (lineman) runs the guy off the field. I was kind of smiling like that. Like, ‘Wow, look at this guy go.’ ”
Baugh was the second-longest standing commitment in South Carolina’s 2023 class, having pledged to the Gamecocks publicly in May. He was among the first to sign their national letters of intent with USC on Wednesday,
The Georgia product looks the part of a future difference-maker in the trenches in Columbia at 6-foot-4, 315 pounds. With USC set to lose a chunk of their starting offensive line heading into next season, Baugh may find himself on the field sooner than later.
“My biggest thing is, I’ve been trying to be strong in the weight room,” he told The State. “More technique, and focusing on the little things. That’s been the biggest thing for me ever since the season ended really.”
South Carolina’s 2023 class is ranked in the top 20 nationally by 247Sports, but lacks the big-time offensive skill position talent that tends to draw headlines this time of year.
Instead, it’s a class loaded with talent on the offensive and defensive lines. Baugh is one of four offensive line commitments in the group (Markee Anderson, Jatavius Shivers, Oluwatosin Babalade). The Gamecocks had as many as five linemen pledged before JUCO tackle Isaiah Jatta decommitted last week.
The defensive line class, too, is stellar. Three of South Carolina’s five highest-rated commitments are defensive linemen (Desmond Umeozulu, Xzavier McLeod and Zavion Hardy). The Gamecocks are also still in the mix for five-star edge rusher/tight end Nyckoles Harbor.
Where Baugh fits into that group remains to be seen. He’s been a steady riser in the 2023 class, jumping almost 300 spots in the 247Sports Class of 2023 player rankings. He earned four-star status earlier this year, thanks, in part, to his versatility. And he’ll play in next month’s Under Armour All-American Game.
Baugh spent this year playing a mishmash of positions, but he could move to the inside once in Columbia. His length and mass, too, make him closer to ready-made for the SEC than most linemen coming out of high school.
That said, Bach insists he isn’t anywhere close to his ceiling.
“We’ve used him everywhere — guard, tackle, center,” he said. “At 6-4, he’s got really long arms. His arms are just all the way down to his knees. There’s a lot he can do there. But also, one of the things I would think that might happen is he might really move to center, because he can do it. He’s smart enough to call everything out.”
Baugh stood on the field long after Pace’s potential game-winning kick went awry in a playoff loss to Stephenson last month. He looked around, taking in the sights one last time.
Bach spotted his massive offensive lineman and sought him out to comfort him. It was time for Pace to vacate the field, but Baugh didn’t want to leave.
“Walking off that field for the last time, man, it was heartbreaking,” Baugh said. “…You live and forget. But something like that, it’s just heartbreaking.”
Added Bach: “I’ll never forget him just not wanting to leave the field. He was so passionate, and he was so heartbroken about that. And I had to, like, hug him and drag him off the field because he wasn’t gonna leave. It was upsetting for me. I want to always want to give those players, those seniors those wins that they want.”
Pace has sent its share of offensive linemen to the college ranks and beyond. New York Giants tackle Andrew Thomas and Los Angeles Charger Jamaree Salyer both starred at the school before college careers at Georgia.
The thought, at least around Pace, is Baugh could be the next man in that lineage of maulers. He’s working toward that mark three pancakes at a time.