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Expected Impact of the Gamecocks New Offensive Assistants 

Gamecocks offensive assistants

South Carolina Head Coach Shane Beamer let go of running backs coach Montario Hardesty at the end of 2023. Then, tight ends coach Jody Wright departed for the head coaching job at Murray State. Beamer made a couple of hires from the same staff. James Coley and Marquel Blackwell were both coaches at Texas A&M in 2023. Now, they are both offensive assistants for the Gamecocks. Blackwell will continue in the role of running backs coach, the same position he held at previous stops like College Station and Ole Miss in 2022. Conversely, Coley will not coach in the same position that he led for Jimbo Fisher. He is making the move from tight ends to wide receivers. This move comes with some intrigue, considering South Carolina’s wide receiver coach, Justin Stepp, is still on staff… for now. 

Backfield Improvements

Running backs in Columbia have underproduced during the Beamer era. After three seasons, the head coach himself agreed and made the change. Blackwell will have a totally retooled room as the Gamecocks lost most of their rushing production from 2023 and brought in four new backs. The most impressive note on his resumé is the development of Quinshod Judkins at Ole Miss in 2022. As a freshman, Judkins broke out for 1,567 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. He was not even expected to be the starter heading into the year. Blackwell also coached Kareem Hunt in 2016 at Toledo. The now NFL star went for 1,475 yards and ten touchdowns in his senior season under Blackwell. 

Any running back paired with Blackwell who can rush for over 1,200 yards will stand out for South Carolina. Dowell Loggains‘ system is going to be run-heavy with LaNorris Sellers at quarterback and Rocket Sanders (presumably) starting in the backfield. Blackwell will have ample opportunities to develop the backs behind Sanders as well. Keep an eye on sophomore Jawarn Howell, who is coming over from South Carolina State. Howell has the potential to see significant time in 2024 and break out as the starter in 2025. If Blackwell’s track record is any indication, Howell could even break out sooner than expected. A consistent running game will alleviate pressure on the young QB Sellers and help South Carolina’s offense continue to trend upward. 

Receiver Development

Wide receivers have been coached by Stepp all three seasons under Beamer. The development of guys like Xavier Legette, Josh Vann, Juice Wells, and Jalen Brooks speaks for itself. All of these players saw time in the NFL or are projected to be there soon, and all of them showed significant improvement under Stepp. He also developed Courtland Sutton, who had two 1000-yard receiving seasons at SMU and has played six seasons for the Denver Broncos. However, recruiting has seen some misses under Stepp. Enter Coley. While coaching at Miami, Florida State, Georgia, and Texas A&M, Coley’s last four stops, he only coached receivers for three of the last 13 seasons. However, his ability to recruit, specifically in South Florida, is why he is an asset for the Gamecocks. 

Beamer needed to add offensive assistants to the Gamecocks staff who could bring in more talent in the portal era. While portal recruiting has succeeded in Columbia, the need to get players ready to make an immediate impact is ever-increasing. Hiring Coley signals that Beamer desires to bring in big-time talent that can plug and play. However, Stepp has been moved to coaching tight ends with this move. The career receivers coach has not previously coached tight ends, nor is it believed he had a desire to make a change. It remains to be seen whether Stepp will take another position elsewhere or stay on as an offensive assistant for the Gamecocks. He reportedly turned down multiple interviews prior to the hiring of Coley, indicating he was unaware of the plan to shift his role at Carolina. 

Change is Inevitable

Coaching changes are a two-sided coin. On one hand, no one wants to lose quality assistants. On the other hand, if no other schools are pursuing your assistants, then that indicates a lack of quality production. South Carolina experienced changes in the offensive staff for opposite reasons: one firing and one promotion. The newcomers will elevate the ability to bring in talent. Right now, talent acquisition is king. But make no mistake, development still has a role in college football. Teams no longer have the luxury of developing players over three or four years. But rapid development in a one-year window is now the name of the game. If Beamer can hold this group together as is, he may be able to get more out of his coaching staff. Coley’s recruiting prowess combined with Stepp’s ability to increase player production on Saturdays equals a lethal combination. 

The situation still appears to be fluid. In the meantime, look for Coley to be the first to show his impact with the class of 2025 visiting now. The #WelcomeHome posts on X may be tied to the South Florida recruiter sooner rather than later.


Gamecocks offensive assistants
Photo courtesy:  Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports


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