South Carolina football: Shane Beamer's first month brings challenges, opportunities to show he's ready to be an SEC head coach
For those who wanted a clean break from the Will Muschamp era, you are getting your wish in spades, almost by the hour on offense especially, but also in terms of program leadership.
New South Carolina coach Shane Beamer hasn’t even organized spring practice, and he’s already faced making his second hire at two key staff positions, which is unique in and of itself even outside the 9 players who have entered the transfer portal in recent weeks, not to mention the departure of QB Collin Hill.
The Mike Bobo-to-Auburn departure is an indictment on Beamer’s prospects as a head coach, or the overall direction — or rebuilding — of the program. While Bryan Harsin is not a new head coach, he is new to the SEC without obvious ties to the South.
Bobo’s move speaks volumes that he believes there is a shorter, or easier, path to win on The Plains. Even though Bobo certainly lost some character points for ducking out on a newly signed and approved contract, he also has as close a view of the roster management outlook as anyone in the building. Or perhaps more troubling a proposition, could the Gamecocks match Auburn’s offer?
After all, if you take Beamer at his word, Bobo was his first choice regardless of the 2020 season.
“If Mike had not been on the staff when I got this head coaching job, he would have been my first call as offensive coordinator — I think that much of him,” Beamer said when Bobo was first announced to remain on staff. “You look at what he did at the University of Georgia and his track record of success for a long, long time, it speaks for itself.”
Then there were multiple reports that Beamer flew to Starkville, Mississippi, to try to lure Zach Arnett as defensive coordinator. That didn’t work out, so the Gamecocks turned to Western Kentucky DC Clayton White, who to his credit, has multiple nominations for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant.
White’s defenses ranked No. 24 nationally in 2019 and No. 28 this season. The Gamecocks, meanwhile, were No. 105 in America in 2020.
Add White with Carolina Panthers assistant offensive line coach Marcus Satterfield, the new offensive coordinator, and Beamer has completed the hires of his top deputies, albeit not his first choices.
Plenty of Gamecock faithful have applauded the new blood element of these moves as they aren’t SEC retreads, and it more quickly puts Beamer’s fingerprints on the program.
While he took his time making initial hires, Beamer deserves credit for quickly turning around the second round of hires, which avoids doubt around his direction. The quick moves by Bobo and Will Friend, also to Auburn, combined with the understandable turnover on the roster, have accelerated Beamer’s unproven decision-making tendencies. The guy with the players’ coach reputation is being put to the task about his CEO role, and how hands-on he’ll be in calling plays and revealing his personality on the field. By all indications, these are capable hires.
One popular way a first-year coach helps flatten his learning curve on the job is to hire former head coaches around him. Bobo was thought to be part of that plan along with Pete Lembo. And former Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason was one of the interviewees for the defensive coordinator job. Beamer is experienced enough to know he’s already had to deal with decisions as a head coach that never factored into his assistant coach job description.
As for the new assistants, it’s healthy that Satterfield has stepped away from Matt Rhule-led teams after Satterfield has coached with Rhule at Temple, Baylor and the Panthers.
This is White’s third Power 5 job after previous stops before WKU at Stanford, Western Michigan and NC State. He has been a special teams coordinator at multiple stops, but this is his second stint as a DC.
The larger perspective on these moves speaks to the Gamecocks’ reality. More so than many of their rival programs, these coaches need to excel in developing overlooked, or underrated players, and have them perform and produce above their high school and underclassman expectations.
An old joke used by head coaches in press conferences in these situations is they weren’t even the first choice of their wife, and they are married and happy. But before he’s stepped on the practice field, Beamer has already faced these decisions and steadied the ship, for starters. How things appear after the honeymoon is the next step for Beamer.