The Opponent: The South Carolina Game Penises
Date: November 5, 2022
Last year: 7-6 (3-5 SEC.) Narrowly survived East Carolina, Troy, and Vanderbilt... then, uh, beat Florida 40-17 and Auburn in November to make it to the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, where Shane Beamer earned himself a bath in mayonnaise by beating North Carolina.
Series record: South Carolina leads, 27-4. These guys have also won 13 in a row against us.
The last time we saw these guys: Well, Vanderbilt took a 20-14 lead when Joseph Bulovas made a field goal with 1:36 left. Did Vanderbilt win this game? Lol no.
Shane Beamer, a hire that I hated at the time, and I still kind of hate although his ability to work the transfer portal has impressed some people. He also nearly lost to last year’s Vanderbilt football team at home, something that people seemed to forget about when he shit all over Dan Mullen’s Florida tenure a few weeks later. Anyway, he’s got a 7-6 record after one season in Columbia. Remember, they weirdly got excited about Will Muschamp after one year, too.
So, let’s start with the obvious. Is South Carolina getting Spencer Rattler, #1 quarterback in the 2019 high school class, budding superstar in 2020, preseason Heisman Trophy frontrunner in 2021? Or is South Carolina getting Spencer Rattler, guy who got unceremoniously yanked for Caleb Williams in the middle of a rivalry game?
Well, the good news is that even the 2021 version of Rattler is an improvement over what South Carolina managed to field at the quarterback position in 2021. The Gamecocks used Luke Doty, Jason Brown, and Zeb Noland at the position, and none of them were terribly effective — somehow, the most effective was Noland, who’d filled in for Trey Lance at North Dakota State in the spring 2021 season and was originally intending to be a grad assistant on Beamer’s staff. Doty is still on the roster, and South Carolina does have a couple of promising youngsters at the position, but this is Rattler’s job, and remember that even when he was struggling at Oklahoma last season he was still completing 75 percent of his passes. That said — well, there was a reason why he got benched, and it’s probably smart not to set the bar too high here.
Anyway, in addition to Rattler, South Carolina’s got a bunch more talent coming in via the transfer portal at the skill positions: Christian Beal-Smith (Wake Forest) and Lovasea Carroll (Georgia) at running back, Corey Rucker (Arkansas State) and Antwane Wells (James Madison) at receiver, Austin Stogner (Oklahoma) and Nate Adkins (ETSU) at tight end. They also return four starting offensive linemen and four of their top five receivers from last season. This unit should be fine.
South Carolina’s defense was by a pretty significant margin its better unit in 2021 — the Gamecocks ranked 46th nationally in scoring defense and 104th in scoring offense. But the defense also enters 2022 with a bunch of holes to fill — and unlike on the offensive side, Shane Beamer didn’t go too heavily into the transfer portal. Gone are safety Jaylan Foster, the team’s leader in tackles and interceptions, and edge rusher Kingsley Enagbare, as well as four other starters — mostly in the front seven.
If you want to look at this positively, well, Will Muschamp at least recruited well on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive linemen Zacch Pickens and Jordan Burch were, after all, former five-star recruits. And Beamer is betting on a bounce-back for NC State transfer Terrell Dawkins, a strong performer in 2020 as a redshirt freshman who then was limited by injuries last season. The defensive backfield should be okay; the linebacking corps returns Brad Johnson, the team’s second-leading tackler.
Questions abound. Kai Kroeger averaged 42.8 yards per punt in 2021, good for ninth in the SEC, and the Gamecocks lose a reliable kicker in Parker White, who converted all 30 of his extra point attempts and 16 of 17 field goal attempts in 2021, which included a game-winner at East Carolina. They already had another kicker on scholarship in Mitch Jeter, who will presumably take over placekicking duties — but replacing a reliable kicker with an unknown is always a question mark.
Kick returns were handled last season by Juju McDowell, who only returned 15 kickoffs but generally did a good job with them, including a 63-yard return.
Yeah, I’m not really sure what to think here. On the one hand, Spencer Rattler might not be the quarterback that people thought he was after 2020, but he’s also almost certainly an improvement on what South Carolina had last year at quarterback, and the Gamecocks return enough or bring in enough from the transfer portal that it’s hard to see their offense failing to improve on 2021. On the other hand, Rattler got benched for a reason and while maybe this was just a guy who needed a change of scenery, the offensive talent around him isn’t what he had at Oklahoma. And while it’s hard to see the offense failing to improve, the offense was also bad.
Defense, too, could be as good or better as it was in 2021, but there are enough losses that it’s easy to see how things could drop off, and anyway the problem here wasn’t recruiting; a lot of guys just failed to develop. Is that getting fixed? If not, well, I’m not sure who the replacements are for the players that South Carolina lost.
For all the hype, this still looks like the fifth-best team in the SEC East at best. So will Vanderbilt win this game? Lol, no. I’m not betting on that curse to end until I see it.