5 things that will define South Carolina offensively in 2021
The rah-rah energy of the Shane Beamer era at South Carolina is, in part, fueled by a modern offense in the style of wunderkind offensive coordinator Joe Brady, from LSU and now with the Carolina Panthers. Marcus Satterfield, the Gamecocks’ new offensive coordinator, studied and worked under Brady, and will aim to implement a Brady-style offense in Columbia.
For those who are familiar with the South Carolina roster on offense, the easiest question becomes: “That’s great, but do you have the horses?” There are certain positions, like running back, where a Satterfield offense could find some creativity and build a portion of the playbook around the three-pronged attack of Kevin Harris, MarShawn Lloyd and ZaQuandre White.
And while Nike Muse is a reliable target at tight end, the Gamecocks may have more questions at wide receiver than any team in the SEC East.
The bottom line to start the season appears to be the offense will be built around the running backs/offensive line and short passing game with at least 2 solid options at tight end. The number of people who think the Gamecocks will have multiple dynamic wide receivers is about the same number of people who think Beamer’s first season will see more than 5 wins.
Here are 5 things that will define the South Carolina offense in 2021:
Marcus Satterfield’s playbook
To put it bluntly, it’s been a while since the Gamecocks have had an offensive coordinator the fan base can be proud of for any length of time. Sure, Mike Bobo showed some flashes against the likes of Auburn, and Bryan McClendon had his brief time in the sun, and don’t forget, Kurt Roper was the OC on a 9-win team in 2017. But by and large, similar to the program overall, the OC has had only brief stretches of success in recent years.
The crux of the goal for Satterfield is how to develop Luke Doty’s arm while also finding deep-threat playmakers, which has been an issue for several years. SC ranked 12th in the SEC in yards per attempt in 2020 (6.3) and 2019 (5.7). That’s an alarming statement considering the Gamecocks had competent quarterbacks and dynamic wide receivers in those years. The case for Satterfield is for him to produce with noticeably less talent than 2019 LSU and the 2020 Carolina Panthers.
Luke Doty’s development
Beamer has said the coaching staff limited Doty’s movement this spring to improve on his passing ability. Doty completed 60% of his passes last season but averaged just 5.7 yards per attempt, as he found a security blanket often in Muse. Because Shi Smith was the lone deep threat, and he was injured for part of Doty’s coming out party, it’s difficult to evaluate Doty given the depleted roster and lack of support outside of Kevin Harris.
But this is another area that Satterfield will be judged. It’s been several years, arguably since Connor Shaw, that a South Carolina quarterback showed notable improvement in his second year at the helm. There are questions about how to protect Doty’s health while promoting his athleticism.
Kevin Harris as a national star, or RB by committee?
At this point last year, there were long odds that Kevin Harris lead the SEC in rushing in 2020. All the hype was on Lloyd. Then, this spring, ZaQuandre White was the star of the Garnet and Black game and that followed a theme throughout all 15 practices.
So with the offensive line being fairly solid with several veterans back in familiar spots, there’s plenty to like about the running back potential. With nonconference games returning, it’s a fairly safe bet that a healthy Harris will top 1,000 yards again. The program hasn’t had 2 running backs reach at least 500 yards in a season since 2014 (Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds).
Playmakers on the outside
Towering TE E.J. Jenkins (6-7) was one of the eyebrow-raising players of the Garnet and Black game. The St. Francis transfer adds another name to the mix of what shapes up to be a veritable grab bag of contributors.
Conventional wisdom may suggest that the 3 key threats will be Georgia Tech transfer Ahmarean Brown, Jalen Brooks and Xavier Legette. However, Brooks and Legette have not lived up to expectations on Saturdays yet. At least 2 of those 3 need to have breakout seasons for the Gamecocks to make any noise.
But then, alongside Jenkins’ recent breakout, remember that Dakereon Joyner was named a Co-Offensive Player of the Spring. TE Jaheim Bell, who is 6-2 and 230 pounds, is another interesting piece who showed he can contribute out of the backfield. Ger-Cari Caldwell, who made 2 catches in the spring game, and Rico Powers are two of the bright up-and-comers.
This is one of the Gamecocks’ more underrated position groups and could easily be a secret to their success. Remember, last year Will Muschamp said the group was his best in his tenure. Right tackle Dylan Wonnum would probably start for 12 other SEC teams, and the Gamecocks also have starting experience at every position, including a pair of centers, Eric Douglas and Hank Manos.
“I’ve known all along we’re pretty good up front,” Beamer said after the spring game. “… I wouldn’t say I learned anything, because I knew we were good along the offensive line and defensive line all along.”