South Carolina turned its 2021 season on Thursday with a 38-21 loss to North Carolina at the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.
With head coach Shane Beamer’s first season at USC now on the books, it’s time to look back at a few things we learned about the Gamecocks this fall.
Here are four things we learned:
South Carolina’s culture has shifted
The word ‘culture’ is used more often than it should in college football circles, but there is something about it.
Beamer inherited a bit of a mess when he arrived in Colombia in December. The players were transferred left and right after the dismissal of Will Muschamp at mid-season. The Gamecocks finished year 2-8 and saw their bowl game disappear due to COVID-19 issues.
Still, Beamer preached that the Gamecocks could compete in freshman. This is what they did and more.
South Carolina’s 7-6 record marked its first winning record since 2018. Beamer also became only the second first-year head coach in program history to win a bowl game at its inaugural campaign.
USC weren’t the most talented team in 2021. They might not have been the fifth most talented team in its own division. But the Gamecocks played hard. This is reflected when the talent comes. Positivity too. All of this took shape in Year 1 under Beamer.
The Gamecocks QB room will be totally different
What Dakereon Joyner did on Thursday was nothing short of spectacular.
The high school quarterback turned college receiver back to QB, completed his nine passes for 160 yards and a touchdown in his first real signaling action since the 2019 season.
That said, Joyner is unlikely to be needed at quarterback next year with Oklahoma transfer Spencer Rattler arriving in town this fall.
Rattler comes to Columbia as arguably the most prominent signal caller import in the program’s history. He was a Heisman Trophy candidate to start the 2020 season, but a mid-season bench led him to a new home in South Carolina.
Beyond Rattler, South Carolina is also home to four-star freshmen Tanner Bailey and Braden Davis. They will occupy the places previously allocated to Zeb Noland and Jason Brown.
Add in the returns Luke Doty and Colten Gauthier and it’s a quickly revamped quarterback room that a year ago was down to just two fellows.
The USC’s defensive line ran its business. Who’s next?
The South Carolina high school has had its fair share of detractors going into the season. The defensive line, however – this group was surrounded from the start.
With Kingsley “JJ” Enagbare returning alongside Aaron Sterling, Rick Sandidge and a supporting cast including Zacch Pickens, Jordan Burch and Georgia State transfer Jordan Strachan, the Gamecocks were confident of their abilities in the trenches.
With Enagbare gone to the NFL and Sterling probably gone too, that leaves some holes to be filled. Pickens has played well throughout the year and he will be a crucial part next fall. Burch is a former five-star rookie who hasn’t quite hit his potential. Next year will be a long way to say how his career presents itself.
Strachan could also return next year, if he wishes. He was not in practice on Tuesday, which suggested he was gone for the NFL Draft. In fact, he played on Thursday and could increase his draft supply as the SEC’s star defensive end.
The South Carolina defensive line has anchored its defense in 2021. It will take a cast of new faces to keep things together in 2022.
South Carolina has something to do
With ZaQuandre White and Kevin Harris jumping from South Carolina to the NFL, that leaves the Gamecocks looking for a star return for next season.
Juju McDowell feels like a fashionable choice to see a higher utilization rate in next year’s attack. The sneaky and dynamic freshman is a blur in the open field and runs longer than his 5-foot-9, 177-pound frame might suggest.
McDowell ended his strong inaugural campaign with a 35-yard touchdown in Thursday’s victory over North Carolina to keep the Tar Heels at bay in the second quarter.
South Carolina also sack former Top 50 running back MarShawn Lloyd. Lloyd was embarrassed when he returned from a torn ACL that ended his freshman year on campus during fall camp. Another offseason of work should have him ready to play a starring role in the offense.
Rashad Amos is also slated to be in the mix for the Gamecocks in 2021. Amos hasn’t had much, if any, opportunities to decipher the depth chart, but it’s a projected, full-bodied back that could take more hits. than Lloyd. or McDowell at their size.
Losing White and Harris are a bit of a shock, but South Carolina should be confident they will find someone to take charge at the back.
This story was originally published 31 December 2021 09:48 a.m.