2022 SEC Football Preview:

Gamecocks hope transfers emerge in big way

By: Tom Murphy Tom Murphy's Twitter account
Published: Monday, July 25, 2022
South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler throws at the Manning Passing Academy on the Nicholls State University campus in Thibodaux, La. Friday, June 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler throws at the Manning Passing Academy on the Nicholls State University campus in Thibodaux, La. Friday, June 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

The seventh in a series previewing SEC football teams in 2022

ATLANTA — Shane Beamer is the son of an old school coaching legend in Frank Beamer, who made Virginia Tech football relevant, but the chip off the old block is decidedly among the youthful wave in the college game.

If being agreeable to a mayonnaise shower after beating North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl wasn’t proof enough, the second-year South Carolina coach set the stage for his SEC Media Days appearance by participating in a hype video to Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On” with sunglasses and a backwards-facing cap with his players last Tuesday.

Beamer has got hopes rising among Gamecock fans after producing a 7-6 record in his debut, tying the school record by wins for a first-year coach with more victories than the two previous teams combined.

The Gamecocks, Arkansas' opponent in Week 2, notched upsets of Florida, Auburn and North Carolina in their final five games to peak their heads above .500 with a patchwork of quarterbacks.

“We made great strides last season going from two wins to seven wins,” Beamer said at SEC Media Days. “A challenge for us is making sure our guys understand that going from seven to the next step, the next level, is going to take even more work. Everything that I’ve seen from our guys since they came back shows me that they understand that.”

Defensive lineman Zacch Pickens said the Gamecocks have the right mindset to continue trending upward.

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“Every time we turn around, we choose to get better,” Pickens said. “There’s not one thing we take for granted. That’s one thing we’re trying to do better than last year. Last year was good, but we’re trying to do even better. We’re trying to improve every year.”

So the question now is, can a former five-star quarterback in a big infusion of transfer portal talent take South Carolina closer to the top?

Spencer Rattler was replaced by Caleb Williams at Oklahoma after beginning last season with Heisman hype. The quarterback spot at South Carolina has been bereft of major talent with no players drafted at that position since Todd Ellis in 1990.

Rattler, who did not attend SEC Media Days, takes the reins of the South Carolina offense that brings back four offensive line starters, key receivers in seniors Dakereon Joyner and Josh Vann, plus top tight end Jaheim Bell.

“People are talking about us nationally, which is what we want,” Beamer said. “We have high expectations at South Carolina. … There’s more buzz about this program right now.”

Running backs Christian Beal-Smith and Lovasea Carroll, receiver Antwane Wells Jr. and tight end Austin Stogner, another former Oklahoma standout, are among the Gamecocks’ impact transfers, but none faces a sharper microscope than Rattler, who completed 140 of 187 passes (74.9%) for 1,483 yards and 11 touchdowns last year after throwing for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns the year before.

His benching at Oklahoma came after passing for 4,595 yards with 40 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and completing 70.1% of his passes in parts of three seasons.

Joyner, whose peach-colored dress pants and floral top was perhaps the top fashion statement at media days, said he’s gotten to know Rattler as a great guy in the locker next door.

“We share a lot of great stories,” Joyner said. “The kind of guy he is off the field, he’s a great leader. Energy, very contagious. A guy you want be around. I think everybody knows he can spin the ball really well. He’s been a great asset to our team.”

South Carolina hopes Rattler can provide more pizzazz offensively after averaging 22.6 points, 336.8 total yards, 201.2 passing yards and 135.6 rushing yards, all among the bottom four teams in the SEC.

Beamer was an Oklahoma assistant coach during Rattler’s first two years with the Sooners.

“The narrative I know was he got benched last year in the Texas game,” Beamer said. “He got sat down the year before, too.

“Then he came back in the second half, played his butt off, beat Texas in four overtimes and he never lost a game as a starting quarterback again, and still hasn’t as a starting quarterback.”

The Gamecocks won low-scoring, tight games against East Carolina, Troy, Vanderbilt and Auburn and lost competitive games against Kentucky (16-10) and at Missouri (31-28). But they took it on the chin in most of their games against top-shelf teams. Losses to Georgia (40-13), Tennessee (45-20), Texas A&M (44-14) and Clemson (30-0) came by an average margin of 40-12.

Pickens is the lone returnee on the defensive front, but the Gamecocks have loads of veteran talent on the back end with returning starters in linebackers Sherrod Greene and Brad Johnson and defensive backs Marcellus Dial, Darius Rush, Cam Smith and R.J. Roderick.

The unit totaled an SEC-best 24 takeaways, three higher than the trio of Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss in second-place and led the conference with 180.8 passing yards allowed per game. However, the passing yardage number was low largely because the Gamecocks gave up 175 rushing yards per game.

One thing Beamer has strived to install is the joy of playing football after the no-nonsense task master Will Muschamp.

“There’s also got to be some joy with what you do,” Beamer said. “This game’s hard enough. We want our guys to have fun.

“I want this to be a program that when our players wake up each morning, they look forward to coming into our football facility each day. I don’t know if that was always the case before I got there. They do now.”

Gamecocks at a glance

2022 schedule

All times Central

DATE - OPPONENT - TIME (TV)

Sept. 3 - Georgia State - 6:30 p.m. (SECN)

Sept. 10 - at Arkansas* - 11 a.m. (ESPN)

Sept. 17 - Georgia* - 11 a.m. (ESPN)

Sept. 24 - UNC-Charlotte

Oct. 1 - S.C. State

Oct. 8 - at Kentucky*

Oct. 22 - Texas A&M*

Oct. 29 - Missouri*

Nov. 5 - at Vanderbilt*

Nov. 12 - at Florida*

Nov. 19 - Tennessee*

Nov. 26 - at Clemson

* SEC game

LAST SEASON 7–6, 3-5 (tied for 4th in SEC East)

COACH Shane Beamer (7-6 in second season at South Carolina)

RETURNING STARTERS Offense 7, Defense 7

KEY PLAYERS QB Spencer Rattler, WR Dakereon Joyner, OG Jovaughn Gwyn, DT Zacch Pickens, CB Cam Smith, WR Josh Vann

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Marcus Satterfield

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR Clayton White

SPECIAL TEAMS Pete Lembo

SEC East title scenario The Gamecocks will get tested right out of the chute in league play with a road trip to Arkansas and a home game vs. Georgia in Weeks 2 and 3. Can’t go 0-2 there and have a chance. A roster dotted with transfer skill talent has to mesh early.

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