Preseason camp is underway, and we are less than a month from the opening weekend of college football. South Carolina began Fall camp on Friday, as it looks to once again exceed expectations under coach Shane Beamer. The offense will have the same coordinator for consecutive years for the first time in a while in Columbia. However, there will still be a new look to the attack with Spencer Rattler taking over under center. The Gamecock receivers will need to step up to help their transfer quarterback and push this unit to be more productive in 2022.
Gamecock Receivers Preview
For the first time in a few seasons, depth should be a strength in the Gamecock receivers room. The combination of returning players and incoming transfers has upgraded the talent level in the South Carolina passing game. The tight end position is also well stocked and should help provide mismatches for Offensive Coordinator Marcus Satterfield and Rattler to exploit. This group needs to step up to the challenge if the garnet and black are going to rise up the ladder in the SEC East. This team averaged just 22 points and 201 yards passing per contest a season ago. Those numbers must improve this Fall, along with the overall consistency on offense.
Beamer and company believe they have the pieces in place to be much more successful on offense in 2022. The return of last season leading pass catcher Josh Vann is a big part of that. Now entering his fifth year in Columbia, Vann has one last chance to shine in garnet and black. He had 13 more catches and nearly 200 more yards than his closest teammate in 2021. He needs to continue to improve and will also need the other Gamecock receivers to increase their production. Ahmarean Brown and Xavier Legette are the two most likely candidates among the returning pass catchers. Both have had moments that showed what they can do but have lacked consistency. They must step up, or they could get passed up on the depth chart by some of the incoming talent.
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Portal of Promise
Beamer was very active in the transfer portal. He not only brought in Rattler, but also added some talented targets for him to throw to. Antoine Wells comes into the program from FCS James Madison, where he was a star over the course of two seasons. He immediately upgrades the speed and explosiveness in the Gamecock receivers room. He was an FCS All-American a season ago and looked good in the Spring after arriving in Columbia. There seemed to be a solid chemistry developing between Wells and Rattler during their first set of practices together.
Corey Rucker was not here in the Spring, but he will be counted on to make an impact this Fall. He has already been named to the Biletnikoff Award watchlist for the upcoming season based on what he did at Arkansas State. He had over 800 yards and nine touchdowns in the Sun Belt last year. As a freshman he averaged 28 yards per reception. Both Wells and Rucker have big play ability, something the Gamecock receivers have not had enough of in recent seasons.
Match Up Problems
The tight end position will also be one to watch in Columbia this season. They have a stacked groups of guys with a variety of skill sets. Jaheim Bell, fresh off a great bowl game to end 2021, should really breakout and become a household name in SEC country. He has a similar build and skill set to former Florida Gator Kyle Pitts. Bell can lineup at tight end, in the slot, and on the outside. He can also take some snaps at tailback if needed. The Gamecocks need to get him the ball as mush as possible this Fall. If he isn’t touching the ball 8-12 times a game, something is wrong. South Carolina also added transfer Austin Stogner from Oklahoma this offseason. A former teammate of Rattler’s, he’ll play more of the traditional tight end role with blocking along the line being as important as his abilities in the passing game. That tandem could rival any in the nation at their position. Traevon Kenion is behind them on the depth chart. While he may not garner the same attention of hype as the other two, he has proven he can be a solid contributor when called upon.
Dakereon Joyner was very good in the bowl victory over UNC to end last season. He of course played quarterback that day but will move back to his role as a receiver this fall. While his development at wideout hasn’t been as rapid as some may have liked, he has shown he can make plays with the ball in his hand. His passing and running abilities displayed in the Belk Bowl will add a new wrinkle for opposing defense to have to worry about. Joyner can be an X-factor for this offense is he is utilized in the right manner. Jalen Brooks could also be considered a wildcard, considering he has never had the chance to fully integrate himself into the offense. After a suspension ended his 2021 campaign, he will need to work his way back into the rotation if he wants to contribute.
Passing The Time
It is almost time for the player s to hit the field, and for Saturdays to become filled with the pageantry, passion, and unpredictability of college football. Optimism is high in Columbia, but things still need to be proven on the field. Beamer and staff have done an excellent job of stocking talent along the roster. Now its down to the players executing and producing on game days.