Wide receiver Jalen Brooks pulls off a one-handed catch over Georgia’s Kamari Lassiter for a 36 yard gain. Photos courtesy of SEC Media Portal.
The Beamer era at South Carolina is in full swing following a summer of excitement and hope for Gamecock football fans. The team currently holds a 2-2 record, dropping their first two SEC games.
USC Head Coach Shane Beamer embraced the city of Columbia and the Gamecocks from the moment he was hired, saying, “It was an absolute dream come true,” to be South Carolina’s head coach.
His enthusiasm for the job has won over the Gamecock fan base; however results must be shown on the field to keep that support.
While the Beamer legacy will not be defined by the first four games, fans finally have a taste of what the Gamecock football program will be under his leadership. Here are some of the biggest storylines from the start of the season.
Emergence of playmakers
Senior wide receiver Jalen Brooks could prove to be a valuable weapon for sophomore quarterback Luke Doty if he can build off of his performances against Georgia and Kentucky.
Against Georgia he had three receptions for 54 yards, including a fully-extended one handed 36-yard reception over Georgia defensive back Kamari Lassiter, showing off his skillset. The next week against Kentucky he hauled in four passes for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Offensive Coordinator Marcus Satterfield has made it a point to give his athletes the chance to make plays and Brooks has taken advantage of it. The Gamecocks have been looking for a complement to senior wide receiver Josh Vann, who is currently leading the team with 298 receiving yards. They may have found him in Brooks.
The coaching staff has also been trying tried to find ways to get the tight ends involved in the offense. They have tried different ways to utilize them so far this season.
Sophomore tight end Jaheim Bell nearly had a 60-yard touchdown run against Eastern Illinois, but a penalty wiped the score off the board.
“Those guys are weapons for us,” said Beamer, and “we’ve got to continue to get them involved.” Tight ends Nick Muse and Jaheim Bell have both found the end zone once on the season and should continue to get opportunities to make an impact.
Offensive line communication
Four games in, Satterfield is not satisfied with the offense’s communication.
An emphasis in recent practices is “making sure that the communication is clear and everybody’s on the same page,” he said.
One unit that has specifically struggled in this area has been the offensive line.
The current level of play is unacceptable for Beamer, who takes the majority of the blame. “We got to be better,” he said. “It starts with us as coaches. We got to coach better.”
These struggles have led Satterfield to try out several different units in practice and rotate guys around to see how they mesh. While some players could see this as distracting, redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Jakai Moore disagrees.
“I feel like it’s making the process better,” Moore said, “We’re learning how to adjust with each other and also play together.”
Figuring out the issues with the offensive line is a huge concern for Satterfield. “If you’re struggling at the upfront it’s going to be glaringly showing on Saturdays.” Moore said.
“You know what Luke Doty’s coming to do, and we’re here to block for him.” Moore said.
“We weren’t perfect executing,” said Satterfield, “but he did some really good things for a guy that’s not played a lot of quarterback.” Doty had been sidelined with a foot injury until the Georgia game and his entire freshman season was played without fans.
Beamer also expressed confidence in Doty, calling him a “warrior” for his performance against Georgia and “tough” and “gritty” in the loss to Kentucky.
While the coaches have been pleased with their young quarterbacks’ development, Satterfield says “I don’t think we have a true identity yet,” and that has led to some of the offensive struggles, especially up front.
Defensively, the Gamecocks have excelled at creating turnovers, forcing multiple in all four games so far.
This is something they will “continue to harp on,” throughout the season, said Defensive Coordinator Clayton White, hoping to continue getting takeaways at a high rate.
This has been in no small part due to the Gamecocks play in the secondary and the stellar start from redshirt senior defensive back Jaylan Foster.
Foster was all over the field in the loss to Georgia, ending the night with seven tackles and two interceptions in the loss to Georgia in a performance described by his head coach as “lights out.” He recorded another interception against Kentucky, currently tied for the most in the country with four.
White spoke extremely highly of him as well, calling him a “very cerebral player,” and a “coach on the field,”. He hopes Foster can be a leader for this unit heading into the teeth of SEC play and continue this level of play, because “he is on a different level right now.“
The Gamecock defense has also recovered three fumbles on the year, two of which came against Kentucky. “It’s going to pay off in the long run,” said White, confident that the defense’s production will lead to more success on the field.
Sherrod Greene injury
While the secondary has a new potential leader in Foster, the linebacking core is now looking to replace their biggest asset. Redshirt Senior linebacker Sherrod Greene suffered a broken ankle on the second play of the Georgia game and underwent surgery the following day.
While the team is hopeful he could return this season, the defense will be without Greene for the foreseeable future.
The Gamecocks’ linebacker’s injury is a “huge loss,” said Beamer, and the team will be taking a committee approach to replace his lost production.
Beamer mentioned Brad Johnson and Damani Staley, both fifth year senior linebackers, saying they are “playing at a high level.” Staley and Johnson are both currently tied for second on the team with 24 tackles, trailing only Foster who has 28.
The coaching staff has also been impressed by sophomore linebacker Mo Kaba’s work on special teams and in practice, so he could see more snaps as well due to the injury.
Linebacker Brad Johnson (19) celebrates a fumble recovery against Kentucky.
Sophomore quarterback Luke Doty (4) throws a pass against Georgia, his first active game of the season.
Jaylon Foster (12) celebrates an interception with fellow defensive back Cam Smith (9).
Wide receiver Josh Vann (6) fights for extra yards against the Wildcats.