South Carolina football: Optimism abounds even as offseason changes are likely in store
Recency bias, enhanced by a rivalry feel, could prove to be a problem for South Carolina faithful in the coming days. But it shouldn’t mask what Shane Beamer and the program did in his 1st year.
Going 2-1 against Auburn, Clemson and Florida is great for most South Carolina teams, and the expectations going into Saturday’s game may have been influenced by those earlier Gamecocks wins combined with Clemson’s struggles earlier in the season. Everything seemed to balance out in a more realistic manner in the Palmetto Bowl. The Gamecocks can hang their hat on the fact that their defense forced 3 field goals by Clemson, and the result wasn’t really in hand until deep into the 2nd half of South Carolina’s 30-0 loss.
While Marcus Satterfield was praised for developing Jason Brown, and getting a lot out of 3 largely unproven quarterbacks, the worst problems of the South Carolina season were on full display. The Gamecocks can’t run the ball, and their offense is equal parts predictable and inefficient. Satterfield remains the most likely assistant to be replaced this offseason even though Beamer did not want to address staff changes with the media immediately after the game.
However, this leads to an interesting dynamic for Beamer, and it will reveal something about him. Since Satterfield came under fire the majority of the season from fans and some media, Beamer will make a statement one way or the other by how he decides on the offensive coordinator position for next season. Beamer has long said that he and Satterfield became friends many years ago at Tennessee as graduate assistants. But will that personal relationship play a factor in his professional decision? Yes, loyalty goes a long way, but it’s also a delicate balance. The team needs to improve on offense, especially as it deals with questions around quarterback development.
If Satterfield is retained, Beamer has to explain how the offense will be fundamentally different, and significantly better in 2022. If the Clemson game was an audition or presentation for the future, it was a troubling effort, because the game plan did not yield much confidence or creativity. It’s one thing to mainly run 2 plays against Auburn and have them be wildly successful, but it’s another to not show any major adjustments throughout the Clemson game as the offense appeared to be stuck in a malaise. Trailing by 2 scores or more for the majority of the game might cause some to wonder, What did you have to lose by pulling out a trick play?
Still, improving by 4 games over a year ago is a remarkable achievement, and there’s still a bowl game to build on. It is a wide and deep body of work that should be reflected on as the program is viewed entering the offseason.
If it’s not optimism, it’s encouragement that the program can once again reach at least for that 2nd tier of the SEC East.
With 79 scholarship players, not to mention the 4 position re-hires on the coaching staff, none of the preseason predictions had the Gamecocks anywhere close to this as they await their bowl fate. It was more along the lines of 2 or 3 wins, not the 6 the Gamecocks actually won. It’s something they can build on, and that can give Beamer and his staff a selling point heading on to the recruiting trail.