Shane Beamer’s program ended his first season in charge in style with a big bowl win over North Carolina. The Gamecocks positive momentum is building headed into the offseason. South Carolina finished the year at 7-6, its first winning season since 2018. This team defied expectations by just making a bowl game. Finishing the season the way they have has been bolstered by moves in the transfer portal, recruiting, and the decisions made by key players to return for 2022. There are some good things brewing in Columbia.
Gamecocks Positive Momentum Springboards Them Into Offseason
Beamer has garnered a lot of praise for how he has navigated in his first season as a head coach. His main philosophies are about competing and love. He wants his players to compete every day to get better. On top of that is the love for each other pushing them to be their best by working hard and fighting for their teammates. His enthusiasm has sparked the Gamecocks positive momentum swing as the offseason begins. All the signs point to his philosophies working in Columbia. This team seemed to enjoy the opportunity to play football in garnet and black again. They also showed a belief and effort level, fighting every week even when overmatched. The next steps are more consistency in their performances and growing the talent level of the roster.
A bowl win is always a good way to end your season. It is even better when you play as well as South Carolina did in their 38-21 victory over the Tar Heels. The Gamecocks had big time performances all over the field that day. The offense got the headlines by putting up a season high in yards, and looking as good as it had in any game in 2021. Dakereon Joyner was magnificent at quarterback, throwing and running the ball effectively. Jaheim Bell also took on a starring role with two touchdowns catches of over 65 yards on the first two drives. His versatility, size, and athleticism make him a match-up nightmare. He needs to be a focal point of the offense next season. The offensive line had a great day as well. Paving the way for Kevin Harris and others to run for over 300 yards.
The offense got most of the praise following the game. Considering how much better they looked than their regular season performances, that praise was warranted. However, the Gamecock defense was also very impressive. They held a high-powered Tar Heel team in check for most of the day. Zacch Pickens flat out refused to be blocked, especially in the first half. He disrupted things all day at the point of attack. Seniors Jabari Ellis and Damani Staley finished their South Carolina careers in style. Each of them were all over the place making plays when North Carolina had the ball. Aside from a big run on a well time draw play, the Gamecocks made them earn every yard they gained. It was also good to see young guys like Jordan Burch and Alex Huntley make plays along the defensive line.
Shortly after the Dukes Mayo Bowl victory, Beamer’s program started receiving more good news. Multiple key players made their decision to return for one more year in garnet and black. These decisions impact multiple position groups in a big way. All three levels of the defense got good news. Pickens and Jordan Strachan will both be returning along the defensive front. After finding a home a linebacker, Brad Johnson will also come back as a super senior. Sherrod Greene will join him after suffering a leg injury in week two. R.J. Roderick, Cam Smith, and David Spaulding will all return in the secondary as well. A group that played well above expectations in 2021 will be experienced and deeper this coming fall.
It was a mixed bag on the offensive side of the ball, with Harris declaring for the NFL draft, but leading receiver Josh Vann deciding to return. Dylan Wonnum and Eric Douglas both announced they will return along the offensive line.
One of the factors to Vann returning might just be because of who will be coming to Columbia next season. Spencer Rattler is transferring to South Carolina after two seasons as the quarterback at Oklahoma. His sophomore year didn’t go as well as his freshman campaign, so he should be arriving with a point to prove. Tight end Austin Stogner will be making the switch from Sooner to Gamecock as well. While these are the only to incoming players via the transfer portal so far, don’t expect them to be the last to join the program. South Carolina is tracking multiple guys who could come in a make an impact.
This year’s recruiting cycle has also been good in Columbia. Beamer has assembled a top 20 class as of the early signing period. They have upgraded the talent and depth on both sides of the ball. The secondary and linebacker groups will both be bolstered by this class. The depth and athleticism will be upgraded by the new additions. On offense, the line was targeted heavily in this recruiting cycle. The Gamecocks also added two high level quarterback prospects. Considering the state of that position this season, the talent overhaul in one off season is quite impressive.
Beamer has his program heading in the right direction after year one. The Gamecocks positive momentum as the offseason begins is huge considering where this program has been falling the last three seasons. However, there is still plenty of things to improve on in Columbia. South Carolina is still not there in terms of depth of talent if they want to contend in the SEC East. Beamer’s team couldn’t be questioned in terms of belief and effort in 2021, but they have a long way to go with execution and consistency. Spring practice will be very exciting thanks to the positive buzz around the program. This team’s focus will need to be on growing and improving each day. As things stand, the fall of 2022 can’t get here fast enough.