10 biggest questions I have as South Carolina enters preseason camp
Shane Beamer received some of the best reviews among the head coaches who spoke at SEC Media Days. The first-year coach offered a vision fueled by an impressive June on the recruiting front to get fans even more excited as the season approaches.
Beamer’s biggest pitch is that the kind of success he is expecting has been done before, and part of the reason he was hired was that he was part of the program during the Spurrier golden years.
“There have been some great days in Columbia, South Carolina, some great days for South Carolina football,” he said at SEC Media Days. “But I am 100 percent convinced that the best days of South Carolina football are right in front of us.”
Before Sandstorm cranks up to 11, here are 10 questions I have at the dawn of fall practice:
10. Will a No. 1 receiver emerge?
Georgia Tech transfer WR Ahmarean Brown, Dakereon Joyner and Jalen Brooks are the likely candidates here, but Xavier Legette has plenty of potential and Josh Vann is a veteran. Beamer offered an update in Hoover where he even called the position “unproven.”
“We’ve got a lot of guys at that position,” he said. “We need some guys to step up as well, and they’re off to a great start.
Someone will emerge, but it will likely take a few games.
9. Who will emerge between MarShawn Lloyd and ZaQuandre White?
Lloyd has fully healed and is back to full strength from his knee injury of a year ago. Meanwhile, ZaQuandre White was the star of the spring game, and spring practice in general. How their roles are developed and how they complement one another and Kevin Harris will go a long way to deciding how the offense unfolds.
8. Speaking of backs, what is Kevin Harris’ ceiling in 2021?
Harris beat the odds, and surprised many fans and media when he rushed for 1,138 yards last season, and led the SEC. Defenses will give him more attention this season, but the veteran offensive line will also have a say in his production. Look for Harris to reach the 1,000-yard mark again thanks to 2 more games, and some versatile support from Lloyd and White.
7. Which newcomer will grab headlines?
Chances are it’ll come from the linebacker group, and the smart money should be on Mo Kaba or Debo Williams. There’s a lot of competition at that position, and plenty of chances for a newcomer to prove themselves in the new Clayton White defense. The way the alignment works, the Gamecocks will have 2 true linebackers on the field at the same time, so watch for Kaba or Williams to stand out.
6. How much will the tight end be involved?
Beamer let everybody know at Media Days how much he valued the tight end. “We are going to throw to the tight end. We want the premier tight ends in America, and that’s the way we’re recruiting now as well, to go get those guys as well,” Beamer said. “That position will always be a key part of our offense at South Carolina.”
Nick Muse flashed at the end of last season, and there’s plenty of potential in Jaheim Bell to increase his role.
5. How does the secondary get sorted out?
Arguably the biggest question about the roster and depth chart is in the defensive secondary where there was a slew of departures at the end of the season and through the coaching change, and a slew of new faces arriving. “We’ve got five guys new to the defensive back position that weren’t even there during spring practice that we’ve added since the end of spring practice,” Beamer said. “Looking forward to getting out there and watching those guys compete in the fall.”
Look for Kansas transfer Karon Prunty to have a significant role. Prunty was named to the 247Sports True Freshman All-American Team and broke up 10 passes during the 2020 season, tied for the most among freshmen nationally and tied for 6th among all players.
4. What is Luke Doty’s development curve?
Year 2 often reveals potential for a young quarterback, and with a new offensive staff, QB Luke Doty has a chance to take the next step. Doty only threw 71 passes last season, and had 3 interceptions to go with 2 touchdowns. However, he showed most of his scrambling and impromptu potential against Missouri in a narrow loss. A successful season from Doty would have a strong touchdown to interception ratio.
3. Will the line play make a difference?
As Beamer and others have noted, most first-year coaches don’t have a pair of offensive and defensive lines like the Gamecocks enter the season with this year. SC has a veteran-laden offensive line that helped a somewhat unknown back rush for more than 1,000 yards. There are 2 defensive linemen who were 5-star recruits, and neither had 6 sacks in 8 games last year as Kingsley Enagbare did. There is plenty of promise, and reason to believe the hype will deliver.
2. How will the coaching staff contribute?
Much was made of the 4 re-hires to the staff, but the key is they all want to be there, and there are multiple stories about how they lobbied for the job, or interviewed like no other. It may be Clayton White with the secondary, or Marcus Satterfield with the play-calling and Doty’s development. But there will be an assistant who exceeds expectations.
1. When will Beamer’s résumé and family background pay dividends?
It was well-documented how Beamer’s pay is below average for an SEC head coach, and one reason was to spread the pool of money around to assistants. Beamer’s binders he collected over the years of things to know and do as a head coach is well-documented. That’s also next to his father and long-time Virginia Tech coach having an influence. Put it all together and he has shown in June how to land a slew of recruits. What’s not to like about what comes next?
“I’ve learned now, being in this chair as a head coach, I feel like there’s 6 weeks since I got hired, I didn’t do anything football related. It was everything else that comes along with being a head coach,” Beamer said. “That’s part of it, the CEO/general manager aspect of the job, but at the end of the day, it’s always about the young men in our program and always will be, and I couldn’t be more fired up about the group of guys we have in Columbia.”