Congratulations, everyone, we made it! We’ve successfully wandered out of the college football offseason’s desert, and it’s game week. As we’re entering the first year of the Shane Beamer Era at South Carolina — as well as coming off a dismal 2-8 campaign that I don’t need to relive here — it’s not exactly reasonable to expect a pile of wins from the word go. The schedule is more manageable than it’s been in recent years, with opponents like this week’s Eastern Illinois, but fans are probably going to need to look outside of the win column for signs the Gamecocks made the right move. Here are a few things I’ll be keeping an eye on:
An answer at quarterback
This isn’t exactly a hot take, given that quarterback is the most important position on the field, but it’s nonetheless a very pressing concern for this program right now. Even setting aside Luke Doty’s foot injury and uncertain status, this is a quarterback room that has seen a lot of upheaval over the past few seasons. That revolving door of players has now left the Gamecocks hoping that Doty can make a big leap in his sophomore season — and failing that, that an FCS transfer in Jason Brown, a true freshman in Colten Gauthier, or a former-grad-assistant-turned-emergency-quarterback in Zeb Noland can save the day instead. It’s a little alarming, to say the least, and South Carolina desperately needs some form of stability here.
Signs of player development
There were a lot of things that went wrong during Will Muschamp’s tenure, to say the very least, but the biggest deficiency in my book was player development. Muschamp, true to his reputation as a recruiter, brought quite a few highly-ranked players to Columbia — and while some lived up to their billing, many more plateaued after a good season and just never seemed to progress past a certain point. Now, obviously busts happen, and recruiting rankings aren’t a guarantee that a player will transition seamlessly to college and continue tearing it up at that level. Some players are late bloomers, too. But we saw a lot of promising talent play inconsistently, and I’m hard pressed to think of an aforementioned late bloomer who really came on under a few years of Muschamp’s tutelage — and the fact of the matter is that many of his better players were former Steve Spurrier recruits. I’m interested to see what Beamer can do with the current roster, and who continues to progress or comes out of nowhere to star.
A cohesive identity, particularly on offense
This is right up there with player development as Muschamp’s Achilles heel, and there’s a convincing argument to be made that the rotating cast of offensive coordinators was as harmful as anything else to this program. The Gamecock offense has been a slapdash, chaotic collection of concepts and ideas for far too long, with a sprinkling of questionable personnel management as well. I’m curious to see how Marcus Satterfield puts this unit together, given his time in the NFL and with former Baylor mastermind Matt Rhule. It’d be a sight for sore eyes if South Carolina rolls out an offense that’s not only halfway modern, but above all, fun to watch. A win is a win indeed, but I think we’re all past tired of most of this team’s victories coming via ugly slugfests that even diehard fans struggle to appreciate.
What are y’all looking for this season? What do you want to see most out of Beamer’s first crack as an SEC head coach?