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How Shawn Elliott’s Return Will Impact The Gamecocks

South Carolina brought back a former assistant last week. Shawn Elliott, who was in the second day of spring practice as the head coach at Georgia State, is now on Shane Beamer’s staff as the tight ends coach and run game coordinator. Elliott is the third Division I head coach to leave for a lower position (Jeff Hafley and Chip Kelly). He is the first to step down to coach a position group. There are many obvious advantages and a few hidden gems in this hire. Elliott was on the staff in Columbia during the most successful run in the history of the program. He knows how to win and brings an edge that will shake up the locker room. Elliott’s return brings an immense impact on the Gamecocks that will be felt by the fans as soon as Spring.

Hype and Headbutt

One of the defining factors of Elliott’s coaching style is his energy. He famously pushes and headbutts his players, specifically offensive linemen, during pre-game warm-ups to get them fired up to play. Players who have been on teams led by Elliott mention his edge whenever they speak of him. On Monday, Pat DiMarco, former Gamecock fullback and NFL veteran, said on Inside The Gamecocks that Elliott “came in with confidence” during his first stint with the Gamecocks from 2010-2016. DiMarco said, “Coach Elliott is a very, very intense human being.” That intensity immediately makes an impression on the players and the other coaches. 

Elliott is a native of Camden, SC, where his parents still reside. When he left the Gamecocks’ coaching staff in 2016 to become the head coach at Georgia State in Atlanta, his wife and children did not move. They made the decision not to uproot their children. So, the story goes that Elliott kept the road from Columbia to Atlanta hot, especially during football season. He traveled home to see his kids in their high school endeavors and then returned to Atlanta to coach his guys. Elliott took the Georgia State program to a new level of success, but the pull of family undoubtedly impacted his decision to return to Columbia.

Elliott worked with Beamer at Carolina when they were both assistants under Steve Spurrier. They are already close. The move simply makes sense from a practical standpoint. Elliott’s natural enthusiasm and intensity will be backed by a less tumultuous home life as he will now get home from the Long Football Facility to his family every day after practice. 

The Impact on the O-Line

Offensive line coach Lonnie Teasley is in his second season in the position. He is the most inexperienced coach on staff but has proven to recruit at an extremely high level. Sources in the building also speak highly of his ability to teach and communicate the position clearly to players. There is no doubt that Teasley is an up-and-comer. Former offensive line coach, Greg Adkins conceded the position to Teasley and moved to an off-the-field role in 2023. However, Adkins is still present for Teasley to consult with questions. With Elliott, a career offensive line coach, returning, Teasley has yet another experienced voice in the coaching room to learn from. This is no slight on Teasley. Instead, it is a boost to position groups across the offense. Elliott’s energy and experience will bring toughness to the offensive line as they learn a new run scheme.

While at South Carolina under Spurrier, Elliott was the run game coordinator for offenses that found great success. Essentially, Elliott’s impact on the Gamecocks was most visible in the success of guys like Brandon Wilds, Mike Davis, and Marcus Lattimore. Under Elliott’s scheme, these backs were running free through SEC defenses. The Gamecocks saw record success, winning 11 games in three consecutive seasons from 2011-2013 and having the most productive offense in the program’s history in 2014.

This scheme is back in Columbia as a group of young, talented offensive linemen is coming into their own. A new group of talented rushers fills the running back room. Finally, little-known quarterback LaNorris Sellers has physical potential far beyond that of the winningest quarterback to ever suit up in Columbia, Connor Shaw. Elliott’s impact on the Gamecocks’ offense is balance. He brings a running element that proved to be effective at South Carolina and Georgia State.

The Impact on the Tight Ends

Although Elliott coached offensive line throughout his first stop at South Carolina and most of his time coaching at his alma mater, Appalachian State, he began his coaching career at App State, coaching tight ends. He will now reprise that role. Elliott steps into the room with talented guys like Josh Simon, Brady Hunt, and freshman Michael Smith. Elliott has the horses at the tight-end position. While fans may have been looking forward to seeing former wide receiver coach Justin Stepp mold the tight ends into elite pass-catching threats, Stepp moved on to coach receivers at Illinois. Enter Elliott.

Now, the tight ends will take on a new persona: toughness. These tight ends will be a factor in the passing game, but Elliott has the ability to mold them into more well-rounded players. Hunt is built to play in tight, block in the run game, and run the seam. However, Simon and Smith are leaner body types that function as big receivers. They will learn how to be true tight ends, catching the ball and run-blocking with toughness and in-pass protection. 

The Impact of a Head Coach

While Elliott is directly replacing Stepp as the tight ends coach and indirectly replacing Jody Wright, who coached Gamecock tight ends last season, he fills a role left by former special teams coordinator Pete Lembo. Lembo had head coaching experience. It aided him as a special teams coordinator who speaks with every player on the team. But it also gave Beamer another experienced coach during in-game moments. Beamer doesn’t necessarily need another voice on game day. He is a confident coach who does things his way. However, every coach has an inner circle of assistants who he leans on. 

During a game, nobody thinks about the whole of the team like a head coach. No one thinks about potential scenarios in the fourth quarter while the second quarter is being played like a head coach. Elliott has been functioning in that line of thinking for seven seasons. It does not simply disappear because he is now focused on tight ends and the running game. Having him on the sideline gives Beamer another trusted opinion, like that of Lembo, when the chips are down, and everything is on the line. Elliott’s impact on the Gamecocks is noticeable in many ways, but this influence is more subtle. Hiring former head coaches is a winning formula, and Elliott brings knowledge of how to win as a Gamecock with him as he returns to Columbia. 

Photo Credit: Matthew Dobbins-USA TODAY Sports


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