7 way-too-early predictions for South Carolina's offense in 2022
South Carolina returns most of its starters, mostly on the offensive line and at wide receiver. Spencer Rattler brings instant credibility and as an added bonus, he’s already made a smooth transition to Shane Beamer’s program.
Rattler’s addition also likely cuts down on the turnover at quarterback in a non-injury situation, as the Gamecocks in 2021 seemingly had a revolving door with Luke Doty, Zeb Noland and Jason Brown.
While there’s plenty of experience, questions remain.
Here are 7 way-too-early predictions for the Gamecocks’ offense in 2022:
The Gamecocks averaged just 22.6 points per game in 2021, which was 13th in the SEC just above Vanderbilt, and nearly 4 points behind the next-closest team, LSU. That lackluster performance is why offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield was under fire for much of the season, and why Rattler’s addition only puts more pressure on Satterfield.
On the surface, it may seem like a no-brainer pick to predict the offense to improve on that number. History suggests it’s not that easy. Only once (2018, 30.1) in the past 6 seasons have the Gamecocks scored more than 24 points per game. Four times in that span, they’ve averaged less than 24 points per game. Still, with the experience at nearly every position and Rattler’s arrival, it will be an improvement to near 28 points per game, and near the middle of the SEC.
The baseline for the top-tier quarterbacks in the SEC the past several seasons has been 2,000 passing yards. Knowing that Rattler in 2020 at Oklahoma passed for 3,000, but given the upgrade in defenses, and the targets available, 2,800 is a solid prediction for Rattler. For perspective, Jake Bentley passed for 3,171 and 2,794 in his 2 full seasons in the Garnet and Black.
The dynamic athlete will be moved to wide receiver and stretch the offense as they already have multiple options at tight end, most notably Austin Stogner. Bell, who had 8 catches for 63 yards and a touchdown in 2021, will be a nice complement next to Josh Vann and Xavier Legette. Look at the Duke’s Mayo Bowl as a coming-out party for Bell, after he went for 159 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns and 26 rushing yards. Don’t be surprised when the Deebo 2.0 nickname gains steam.
McDowell showed plenty of potential last season early on against East Carolina, but never really capitalized on it until the bowl game. The easy money would be to predict MarShawn Lloyd as the feature back, but McDowell will be the feature back because of his ability in the passing game to be an every-down solution. Satterfield admitted after McDowell went without any touches against Georgia that the realization was enough to “drive me nuts.” That won’t happen again.
The conundrum about the offensive line is the unit was largely “meh” last season, and the entire group returns, including multiple backups. There will no doubt be a juggle at times with the starting mix, but it will likely start with Eric Douglas at center, Jaylen Nichols at left tackle, Vershon Lee at right tackle, Jovaughn Gwyn at right guard and sophomore Tyshawn Wannamaker at left guard. All except Wannamaker are juniors and seniors, and there are also capable backups in Dylan Wonnum, Jakai Moore and Hank Manos who are also experienced.
But unfortunately, this group has simply not performed at a high level, and so there’s no reason to think it won’t be the weak link of the offense.
Every offseason it seems that Legette is due for a breakout season. And while he’s battled injuries, Legette has only produced 8 catches, 7 catches and 9 catches in each of the past 3 seasons. He’s the kind of player who needs to step into that No. 2 wide receiver role if the Gamecocks want to deliver a notable win or 2 this season. It’s difficult to count on him, though, and that’s why it’s easier to see the likes of Ahmarean Brown or Omega Blake to step into that complementary role behind Josh Vann and Jaheim Bell.
With Bell moving to wide receiver, Stogner comes in with the added chemistry with Rattler, and that’s why it’s easy to see him reaching the high-water mark for Gamecocks tight ends in recent years, which Hayden Hurst did in 2016 with 48 catches. In the first 4 games of the 2020 season in Big 12 play, Stogner averaged 4 catches per game, and he’s capable of duplicating that with the Gamecocks, to match Hurst.