Gamecocks Begin Spring Drills Saturday

The spring of 2021 begins a new chapter of South Carolina Football, as new head coach Shane Beamer takes the controls of the Gamecock fortunes.

Beamer a former Gamecock assistant coach during Steve Spurrier’s regime, knows the challenges that await him, but the first-year head coach is process-driven and knows what this program can look like when it’s hitting on all cylinders, as it was when he was last here. A meticulous note taker who has been fortunate to learn from several outstanding coaches and be around some great programs, Coach Beamer will take bits and pieces from each stop in putting his own stamp on the Gamecock program.

Coach Beamer has surrounded himself with a young and energetic staff that has brought a positive vibe back into the program. He was very meticulous in putting together his coaching staff, and believes he has a group that will work well together with a healthy combination of youth and experience. The 101 players on the Carolina spring roster have spent the last couple of months working in the weight room with new strength & conditioning coach Luke Day and his staff and are anxious to return to the practice fields. All 101 players come in with a clean slate, anxious to make a favorable first impression with their new mentors. Coach Beamer and his staff have 15 spring practices to evaluate the returning talent, seven scholarship transfer players and five newcomers from the 2021 recruiting class, install new schemes and vernacular and infuse the philosophies and principles that will define Gamecock Football for the foreseeable future.

The on-field coaches, save one, are new to being on the staff at South Carolina. The only holdover from Will Muschamp’s staff is outside linebackers/defensive ends coach Mike Peterson. Peterson will work closely with defensive coordinator Clayton White, who also will coach the inside linebackers. Jimmy Lindsey takes over the defensive line, while Torrian Gray is the new defensive backs coach.

The offensive side of the ball will be directed by offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Marcus Satterfield. He will be assisted by veteran offensive line coach Greg Adkins, running backs coach Montario Hardesty, wide receivers coach Justin Stepp and tight ends coach Erik Kimrey, a former Gamecock quarterback.

Pete Lembo has joined the staff as the associate head coach and is the special teams coordinator.
The new staff will have 51 returning letterwinners to work with during the spring including 24 on offense, 23 on defense and four specialists. That list includes 14 returning starters, seven on offense, five on defense and two specialists.

They key offensive returnees from last year’s 2-8 squad include four starters on the offensive line – Eric DouglasJovaughn GwynJakai Moore and Dylan Wonnum; 1,000-yard rusher Kevin Harris and tight end Nick Muse, the top returning receiver.

A trio of players – wide receivers Randrecous Davis and OrTre Smith, along with running back MarShawn Lloyd – missed all of the 2020 season, but return this year and, if healthy, could play an integral role in the offense.

Key returnees on defense include All-SEC defensive end Kingsley Enagbare and tackles Jabari Ellis and Zacch Pickens. The defense will get a lift from the return of linebackers Sherrod Greene and Rosendo Louis Jr., both of whom missed nearly the entire 2020 season due to injury.

In addition, Coach Beamer and his staff hit the transfer portal hard and brought in seven scholarship players who are expected to provide an immediate infusion of talent to the roster. The seven include wide receiver Ahmarean Brown (Georgia Tech), quarterback Jason Brown (St. Francis, Pa.), defensive tackle Keem Green (Nebraska), wide receiver E.J. Jenkins (St. Francis, Pa.), defensive back David Spaulding (Georgia Southern), EDGE Jordan Strachan (Georgia State) and linebacker Debo Williams (Delaware).

Key losses from last year’s squad include five players who were invited to the NFL Combine – senior offensive lineman Sadarius Hutcherson, senior wide receiver Shi Smith, junior linebacker Ernest Jones and junior defensive backs Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu.

Strengths of the team should be found at running back and along the offensive line, as well as an improved defensive line and in the kicking game with the return of both the punter and placekicker. The coaches will use the spring to identify playmakers at the wide receiver position and reconstruct a secondary that will feature a lot of new faces.

As is the case every year, the goal for the Gamecocks is Atlanta and a spot in the SEC Championship game. And, as is the case every year, the road that winds through the SEC gauntlet is challenging, to say the least.

The Gamecocks four home conference games include visits from Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and Auburn, while Carolina will travel to SEC foes Georgia, Tennessee, Texas A&M and Missouri. The non-conference slate includes home games against FCS-level Eastern Illinois, Troy and a renewal of the annual Palmetto Bowl with Clemson. In addition, the Gamecocks will travel to Greenville, N.C. for a September 11 date with the East Carolina Pirates.

OFFENSE
New offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Marcus Satterfield will be implementing a new offense this spring and will be challenged to get more production from a unit that averaged just 23.5 points per game a season ago. Maybe the most important position battle in the spring is at quarterback where Luke Doty returns after gaining valuable experience as a true freshman last year. He will be challenged by transfer Jason Brown and true freshman Colten Gauthier. Whichever quarterback wins the job, he knows he has the luxury of being able to hand the ball off to a 1,000-yard rusher in Kevin Harris. But Harris is not the lone talented rusher in the backfield in what may be the deepest position on the squad, one that includes MarShawn LloydZaQuandre White and Rashad Amos. It will be interesting to watch how the wide receiver corps develops with a blend of veterans, transfers and youngsters all vying for playing time. Many eyes will be focused on transfers Ahmarean Brown, who immediately becomes the top deep threat, and 6-7 E.J. JenkinsNick Muse took advantage of the NCAA rule to return for an extra year of eligibility and figures to be the top tight end. A quartet of sophomores will push each other for playing time. The offensive line should be a strength, as it is deep, talented and experienced. The four returning starters are Dylan Wonnum (24 career starts), Jovaughn Gwyn (21), Eric Douglas (11) and Jakai Moore (8) while Jordan Rhodes (10), Jaylen Nichols (4), Jazston Turnetine (3), Hank Manos (2) and Vershon Lee (1) have all been starters during their Gamecock career as well.

DEFENSE
Defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach Clayton White will be challenged to get his unit back on track this year after the Gamecocks surrendered an average of 36.0 points per game a season ago in a season that was plagued by injuries, opt-outs and positive COVID-19 tests. In fact, Carolina had nine defensive starters in the season opener against Tennessee who were not in the starting lineup in the regular season finale at Kentucky, and the two that were, safety Shilo Sanders and nickel Jammie Robinson, have both transferred out. The strength of the unit should be up front where Jabari Ellis, Rick Sandidge and Zacch Pickens stack up in the middle, and off the edge where All-SEC performer Kingsley Enagbare, Aaron SterlingJordan Burch and Tonka Hemingway have all shined at times, along with the nation’s leader in sacks in Jordan Strachan, a transfer from Georgia State. The linebacking corps will get a boost with the return of Sherrod Greene and Rosendo Louis Jr., both of whom were sidelined with injuries in 2020, along with returning starter Damani Staley, 2020 team captain Brad Johnson and Freshman All-SEC performer Mohamed Kaba. The secondary will need to be rebuilt for the most part, with Jaylin Dickerson, R.J. Roderick and Cam Smith the most likely candidates to secure regular playing time, but opportunities abound for others to step up and earn a key role.

SPECIAL TEAMS
The Gamecock kicking game should be a strength for new special teams coordinator Pete LemboParker White returns for his fifth season as the starting placekicker. He struggled a bit down the stretch last season, but has been nearly automatic from within 40 yards throughout his Gamecock career and has a chance to break Elliott Fry’s school record for points scored in a career. Punter Kai Kroeger is back for his second season after earning SEC All-Freshman team honors a year ago. The left-footed kicker looks to improve on his 43.3-yard average from 2020. Second-year player Mitch Jeter has a big leg and handled the kickoff duties for much of the 2020 season, but needs to gain consistency in that role. Matthew Bailey returns for his second season as the squad’s long snapper. Several candidates could be in line for both the kickoff return and punt return duties again this year.

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