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Texas A&M Football

Beamer must prove strong 2022 season wasn't a 'one-hit wonder'

June 12, 2024

About a year and a half ago, South Carolina coach Shane Beamer was riding high.

The Gamecocks closed the 2022 regular season with consecutive victories over No. 5 Tennessee and No. 8 Clemson. He was the first South Carolina coach to post back-to-back wins over top ten opponents. He would receive a salary raise to more than $6 million following a surprising 8-5 campaign.

But after those consecutive top ten wins, South Carolina lost to Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.

Then, they lost the 2023 season-opener to North Carolina.

Then, they suffered a mid-season four-game losing streak.

Finally, they fell to arch-rival Clemson in the season finale to close out a disappointing 5-7 finish.

Suddenly, questions are being asked whether Beamer is worth the money he’s making.

Then, they lost the 2023 season-opener to North Carolina. Then, they suffered a mid-season four-game losing streak. Finally, they fell to arch-rival Clemson in the season finale to close out a disappointing 5-7 finish.
Suddenly, questions are being asked whether Beamer is worth the money he’s making.

There’s speculation he’s entering the 2024 season with his job in jeopardy.

Those rumors may be a year premature, but Beamer must prove he’s not a one-hit wonder.

The problem is many of South Carolina’s top players in 2023 — quarterback Spencer Rattler, receiver Xavier Legette, receiver Antwane Wells Jr., defensive back Marcellas Dial — departed for the NFL or left via the transfer portal.

Indeed, there are enough questions to doubt whether South Carolina can match last year’s five victories.

The concerns start at quarterback. Rattler passed for more than 3,000 yards in both of his two seasons in Columbia.

He figures to be replaced by redshirt freshman LaNorris Sellers, who appears to have won the starting job over Auburn transfer Robby Ashford.

“LaNorris is the starting quarterback coming out of spring,” Beamer said earlier this spring. “Robby did a great job during spring practice along with our other quarterbacks. LaNorris did a great job and I expect LaNorris to continue to compete and earn that position as well.”

Norris won’t have many experienced targets. Senior tight end Joshua Simon had the most catches last year of any player remaining on the roster. He had 28 for 256 yards.

No wideout remains that had more than 12 catches.

However, the Gamecocks brought in five receivers via the transfer portal. The best of them appears to be Gage Larvadain, who last year led Miami (Ohio) in receiving.

The Gamecocks may have hit big at running back, though. Raheim “Rocket” Sanders transferred from Arkansas. He was hurt most of last season, but was second in the SEC in rushing in 2022.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Throwing a career-high 3,186 yards in 2023, Spencer Rattler ranks fifth in career passing yards (6,212) and first in career completion percentage (67.5) in South Carolina program history.

The biggest concerns on offense are in the line, which allowed 41 sacks last season. Again, South Carolina drew heavily from the portal for help there.

The Gamecocks also looked to the portal to upgrade a mundane pass rush, which produced an SEC-low 21 sacks.

Transfer Kyle Kennard, an edge rusher from Georgia Tech, and five-star freshman Dylan Stewart are counted on to increase pressure.

South Carolina is stout in the interior defensive line where T.J. Sanders and Tonka Hemingway are a formidable duo.

Questions remain elsewhere. Linebacker Debo Williams is a tackle machine, but needs help. Maybe Pitt transfer Bangally Kamara can provide it.

The Gamecocks also need help in the secondary to upgrade their pass defense, which was ranked 12th in the SEC.

South Carolina

2023 record: 5-7; 3-5 in the SEC

Primary area of strength: Every major contributor from the interior defensive line remains on the roster, so improvement is expected there. T.J. Sanders, Tonka Hemingway and Alex Huntley all posted at least 33 tackles in 2023. They figure to be at least as productive this season.

Also, depth is boosted with the acquisitions of Monkell Goodwine (Alabama) and DeAndre Jules (Pitt) through the transfer portal.

Primary area of concern: Last season the Gamecocks were ranked 12th in the SEC in sacks allowed. They also were ranked last in rushing offense. Clearly, the offensive line was an issue.

Injuries were a contributing factor to the futility up front, but that doesn’t explain everything.

Knee injuries limited Cason Henry to just two games as a redshirt freshman last year, but he earned the start in the season-opener against North Carolina. Left tackle Tree Babalade, guard Jakai Moore , center Vershon Lee and guard Trovon Baugh all started at least eight games last season. They must raise their production level.

In hopes of further upgrading the line, guards Torricelli Simpkins III (North Carolina Central) and Kamaar Bell (FAU) and tackle Aaryn Parks (Oklahoma) were added through the portal.

Top three players

  • DT T.J. Sanders: Landed on some All-SEC lists last year after a strong showing. He posted 43 tackles, 9.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks — all excellent stats for an interior lineman.
  • QB LaNorris Sellers: Hopes are high for the redshirt freshman successor to departed Spencer Rattler. He’s big, physical, has a strong arm, a high football IQ and can run. He just has to prove he can produce in the SEC. He appeared in three games last season with modest results.
  • RB Raheim Sanders: “Rocket,” as he’s better known, transferred from Arkansas where he earned All-SEC honors in 2022. Last year Sanders was slowed by injuries. Healthy again, the Gamecocks hope he returns to his ’22 form when he rushed for 1,443 yards.

Top three additions

  • RB Raheim Sanders: See above.
  • WR Gage Larvadain: Transfer from Miami (Ohio) had 42 receptions for 679 yards and six TDs last season.
  • E Dylan Stewart: Five-star freshman is counted on to bolster the SEC’s most anemic pass rush.

Top three departures

  • WR Xavier Legette: First-round draft choice of the Carolina Panthers last season had 1,255 receiving yards. That’s more than the next four receivers produced combined.
  • QB Spencer Rattler: Fifth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints, Rattler passed for 6,716 yards and 44 touchdowns in two seasons at South Carolina.
  • CB Marcellas Dial: Sixth-round draft pick of the New England Patriots, Dial led the Gamecocks in 2023 with 10 passes broken up.

2024 South Carolina schedule
Aug. 31 vs. Old Dominion
Sept. 7 at Kentucky
Sept. 14 vs. LSU
Sept. 21 vs. Akron
Oct. 5 vs. Ole Miss
Oct. 12 at Alabama
Oct. 19 at Oklahoma
Nov. 2 vs. Texas A&M
Nov. 9 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 16 vs. Missouri
Nov. 23 vs. Wofford
Nov. 30 at Clemson

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Beamer must prove strong 2022 season wasn't a 'one-hit wonder'

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