South Carolina’s recent hire of head coach Shane Beamer hopes to improve on their disappointing 2-8 record in SEC East competition last year.
Beamer previously worked on the Gamecocks staff under Steve Spurrier and left an assistant role at Oklahoma to take the job in Columbia, SC. He inherits a team with an impressive backfield duo of Kevin Harris, who finished second in the SEC in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in 2020, and Mar’shawn Lloyd, a top running back recruit from the 2020 class who lost his freshman year to a torn ACL.
The passing offense is unproven though, and a recent foot injury to quarterback Luke Doty may put a dent in his ability to grow into a new offense led by first-year offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield. In addition, the only returning players with more than 15 catches in 2020 are Harris, who has not practiced yet while recovering from a minor back procedure, and tight end Nick Muse, who shapes up to be a primary target in the offense.
Aside from them and Lloyd, the playmakers will slowly reveal themselves as practices continue leading up to the season. The offensive line returns four starters including Eric Douglas, Jovaughn Gwyn and Dylan Wonnum, all of whom did not miss a start last season. The unit gave up the fourth-most sacks per game in the SEC last year, but it’s fair to expect improvement with such continuity.
The Gamecocks’ defensive line appears to be the biggest strength on the team. Kingsley Enagbare tore up opposing teams last year, leading South Carolina with seven tackles for loss and six sacks. Jabari Ellis, Zacch Pickens and Georgia State transfer Jordan Strachan will be battling alongside Enagbare at the line of scrimmage.
However, all three of their top tacklers from last season are gone, and the linebacker core will feature many guys who missed the majority of, if not all of, last season due to injury including Rosendo Louis Jr., Mohamed Kaba and hybrid Jahmar Brown. The secondary returns key playmakers Jaylan Foster, Jaylin Dickerson and Cam Smith, but losing Jaycee Horn will leave opportunity for others to fill in.
South Carolina will be an interesting team to follow heading into 2021, specifically with the health of the offense and the development of a defense under new leadership in first-year defensive coordinator Clayton White. His 4-2-5 lineup as DC at Western Kentucky was one of the best among mid-major programs in the FBS.
Mizzou hosts the Gamecocks at Faurot Field on November 13, sandwiched in between the Tigers’ matchups against Georgia and Florida. That could spell trouble if South Carolina can put the pieces together and bring a daunting defense. The Gamecocks have three athletes nominated to the Preseason Media Days All-SEC teams and six named to NCFAA watch lists.