South Carolina football: Beamer's newcomers help rescue Gamecocks
When Shane Beamer assembled his roster this past offseason, the new South Carolina coach raised some eyebrows with some of the players he brought in, particularly where they came from last season.
On Saturday against Troy, 2 of those players helped rescue the Gamecocks from an ominous start to a game that had several potential pitfalls.
E.J. Jenkins, who shined in the spring game but last played at St. Francis in Pennsylvania, and David Spaulding, who played at Georgia Southern last season, delivered the only 2 touchdowns of the game as South Carolina escaped near peril against Troy, and prevailed, 23-14.
Spaulding provided the game-changing play, a 74-yard pick-6 late in the 1st half, and Jenkins scored a 16-yard touchdown earlier in the game. Outside of that, the Gamecocks got 3 Parker White field goals.
Where would they be without these players Beamer recruited?
“Thank God we have them,” Beamer told reporters. “Those guys are doing a nice job.”
Jenkins and Spaulding are a sort of poster children for the current Gamecocks, as several newcomers and especially the coaching staff have received double-takes based on their career backgrounds or recent history. Beamer will be increasingly judged by talent evaluation. But the truth is, these guys are a complete break from the Will Muschamp era, and the more Beamer can do that and deliver, the stronger trust he can develop with his team, program and fans.
“We’re a young football team and a new football team in a lot of ways,” Beamer said. “And those guys are just continuing to get more and more comfortable out there.”
Jenkins is a hybrid-type player. He’s listed at 6-foot-7 and with a tight end frame, but he makes plays as if he were a wide receiver. Beamer has long discussed making plays with the tight ends, and he did again on Saturday in the context of star recruit Oscar Delp being in attendance.
Luke Doty has noticed Jenkins’ ability and how the game plans are tailored around those mismatches.
“He just keeps his head down and he works,” Doty said. “He does what he’s asked, does whatever we tell him to do, and he has a good heart about it. He’s a true team player.”
Jenkins was only one of several targets to big bodies who can go over the middle and are a cross between a tight end and a receiver. Nick Muse made 2 catches for 27 yards, and Jaheim Bell made 2 catches for 41 yards.
“We want to spotlight our best players, how about that?” Beamer said. “I thought about it when Nick and Jaheim caught a couple passes during the game, I’m not going to lie.”
As the offense continues to struggle to find a rhythm, and 3rd downs are one of several areas that the Gamecocks haven’t solved yet, these players are an option to get out of the rut.
South Carolina came into Saturday ranked 12th in the SEC in 3rd-down conversions, and it went 4-for-13 against Troy. Beamer said there are several ways to improve there.
“One, stay out of them,” he said. “Be better on 1st and 2nd down so you don’t get into 3rd-down situations.
“We just have to be able to execute. We’re going to see we had people open, we have to throw and catch. We have to protect a little better on 3rd down. But it starts on 1st and 2nd down. We have to get better,\ and have to get more and more efficient.”
Spaulding and Jenkins helped turn the page to the Beamer era with their contributions in the win over Troy. Now, the Gamecocks need to focus on writing the next chapter.