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Mike Furrey and The Gamecocks Receivers

Shane Beamer has had a revolving door at the wide receiver coaching spot this off-season. The biggest downside of the movement is the impact on the players. Early enrollees Debron Gatling and Mazeo Bennett are both promising young receivers who project to work their way into the rotation in their first season with the Gamecocks. Both guys expressed frustration on X about the changes with their position coach. Former receivers coach Justin Stepp was moved to tight ends before leaving to coach receivers at Illinois. Stepp recruited and invested in every receiver currently on the roster. He is a relationship-focused coach. He was shifted to tight ends to make room for recruiting ace James Coley, who has major ties in South Florida. Coley was hired on January 10 to bring in blue-chip receiver talent. However, his stay lasted only a month as Kirby Smart swooped in and lured him to return to Athens. On Thursday, the Gamecocks announced Mike Furrey as the wide receivers coach.

The Resumé

Furrey was the head coach at Limestone University in Gaffney, SC. He coached the Saints from 2016 to 2017 before leaving to coach wide receivers for the Chicago Bears. Furrey reprised his role as the head coach at Limestone from 2022-2023. He has experience as the wide receivers coach at Marshall (2013-2015) and as the head coach of the NAIA program, Kentucky Christian from 2011-2012. Before coaching, Furrey played wide receiver professionally in the NFL, XFL, and AFL (Arena Football League). As a freshman in college, he walked on at Ohio State and saw the field in nine games. He then transferred to the University of Northern Iowa, where he had 242 receptions for 3,544 yards and 27 touchdowns over three seasons. 

Furrey’s greatest success as a professional football player came in 2006 when he caught 98 balls for 1,086 yards and six touchdowns for the Detroit Lions. His seven seasons in the NFL give him a veteran experience to impart to college players who dream of playing in the league. As a head coach, Furrey did not succeed much in his first stint with Limestone. He led the Saints to a 9-12 record over two seasons. However, in the past two seasons in his return to Gaffney, Furrey’s teams went 8-4 both years. They also finished tied for first in their division in both seasons. 

What Furrey Brings to the Staff

Like Shawn Elliott, Furrey brings head coaching experience to the Gamecocks staff. The mind of a head coach, even a mediocre one, cannot be overstated. Some guys are cut out as head coaches, while others are better suited as coordinators and position coaches. Regardless, anyone who can think like a head coach at any level brings a unique perspective to the staff. Furrey is a three-time college head coach. He brings the game planning experience from an overall team perspective and an offensive mind built for receivers. 

Furrey is the most NFL-experienced wide receivers coach the Gamecocks have had in over two decades. Joker Phillips, in 2002, was the last South Carolina wide receivers coach with multiple years of experience playing in the NFL. This is the first time in the modern era that the Gamecocks’ receivers coach has seven years of experience playing in the NFL. Someone who coached and played at the highest level has extra tools in his recruiting bag. Furrey recruited University of Arizona receiver Drew Dixon to Limestone University, a Division II school. Dixon caught 44 passes for 541 yards and four touchdowns in 2023. Furthermore, Furrey developed West Georgia transfer Jelani Baker into a true number-one wideout. Baker grabbed 75 balls for 1089 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2023. 

Player Exclusive

We spoke with a former college football player who played under Furrey at Limestone.  He asked to remain anonymous as he had many insightful and positive stories to tell. To begin, he pointed out that in addition to playing receiver in the NFL, Furrey also spent one season as a free safety for the St. Louis Rams. He made 58 tackles and had four interceptions, with one returned for a touchdown in 2005. This was the season just before his career-best year at receiver in Detroit. The former player noted that Furrey has the ability to see both sides of the ball and teach receivers how to beat defensive backs routinely. “He takes a great athlete, gives them a couple of tricks, and makes them lethal,” the player said of Furrey’s influence on receivers.

He’s also an aggressive recruiter and motivator. “I respect him and would go to war for him,” the former Limestone athlete told Last Word. Furrey turned a 0-9 Limestone team in 2021 into an 8-4 team in 2022. He noted Furrey spotting great talent like Baker at West Georgia and bringing in athletes like Dixon. “I never saw any scouts on Limestone’s campus. Then, Furrey showed up, and we saw five or six the first season,” the former player commented. Furrey’s love for his guys and respect from other coaches allowed him to advocate for others to see the talent he had on his hands in Gaffney. He wanted his players spotted and given the chance they deserved at a higher level. 

The interview concluded with a quote from Furrey to his players at Limestone. “I want to be a Power 5 coach by the time I’m 50,” the coach said. He is currently 46 years old. As the Gamecocks ‘ wide receivers coach, Furrey plans to make a name for himself. His players love him, and if he produces in Columbia similarly to what he did in Gaffney, fans will love him, too. 

Photo Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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