South Carolina dove headfirst into the transfer portal in the offseason trying to upgrade an offense that struggled mightily in 2021. They brought in players at each skill position, raising the talent level across the board. When the Gamecocks run game was productive last season, this team performed better overall. That will be no different this fall. The combination of a veteran offensive line and a deep running back group should allow for more consistency on the ground in 2022.
Gamecocks Run Game Key to Offensive Improvement
Despite losing last season’s top two rushers, there is still plenty of optimism surrounding South Carolina’s ball carriers. The upgrades at quarterback and receiver will also help the Gamecocks run game. Last year, no one was afraid of this team’s passing ability, therefore defenses were able to attack the line of scrimmage relentlessly. That won’t be the case this year with Spencer Rattler under center and a solid set of weapons on the outside. The newfound balance will open things up on the ground with opponents having to respect the passing game. The tailback group in Columbia has plenty of options, but they will also use the versatility of Dakereon Joyner and Jaheim Bell to boost the rushing attack.
Fulfilling the Promise
Marshawn Lloyd arrived in Columbia as a big-time prospect looking to earn a spot among other great South Carolina tailbacks like George Rogers, Duce Staley, Cory Boyd, Marcus Lattimore, and Mike Davis. Unfortunately, a serious knee injury in the 2020 fall camp derailed those plans. He returned last season, and while he did some good things, he wasn’t the best version of himself. All indications are that Lloyd is fully healthy now and aiming to finally show what he can do in garnet and black. The Delaware native has the size and athletic ability to be an elite tailback. He can take the physical punishment required, he also has the agility and burst to create explosive plays. For an offense that struggled to score in 2021, a healthy Lloyd should be a prominent playmaker in the Gamecocks run game.
JuJu on the Beat
The other returning tailback that contributed a season ago is Juju McDowell. The Bainbridge, Ga native showed flashes of what he could do with the ball in his hands as a freshman. He was an AP SEC All-Freshman selection after rushing for 248 yards and averaging 26 yards per kickoff return. McDowell is electric with the ball in his hands. He doesn’t have the size to be the work-horse-type tailback, but he still needs to be a big part of the offense. South Carolina needs to use him more in the passing game as well. The sophomore has good pass-catching ability and is at his best in space making defenders miss. He will also be a factor in the return game. Don’t be surprised to see him take at least one kick to the house this season.
New Face, New Place
While most of the transfers on offense were geared towards fixing the issues under center and out wide, the Gamecocks run game also got a boost. Christian Beal-Smith comes in from Wake Forest after three seasons churning out yards in the ACC. The senior transfer has excellent vision and patience but will have to adjust to a different style of play in Columbia. He adds experience and proven production to the pair of young talents mentioned above. Beal-Smith ran for over 1300 yards and 12 scores in the past two seasons in Winston-Salem. He has three 100+ yard games for his career. Also, Lovasea Carroll transferred from Georgia and may work into the tailback rotation at some point. However, expect Lloyd, McDowell, and Beal-Smith to get the bulk of the carries for the Gamecocks run game.