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Gamecocks still haunted by offensive issues

Different season, different staff, and a lot of the same problems.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Four games into the Shane Beamer Era, one thing has become abundantly and unfortunately clear for Gamecock fans: watching this offense brings about a serious case of deja-vu to the units Will Muschamp’s offensive staff rolled out. South Carolina is loitering near the bottom of the SEC in most major statistical categories — yards per game, rushing/passing yards per game, points per game, you name it — and to make matters worse, lowly Vanderbilt is the only team below USC in many of those areas.

As previously mentioned, it’s been just four games, and it takes a lot longer than that to clean up the oil spill of a disastrous coaching hire that was in place five years too long. I’m not taking any reactionary stances just yet (calling for the head of offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield already is too much for me at the moment), and I’m not trying to make excuses, either — but I think there are some reasons for what we’re seeing.

Health. Quarterback Luke Doty is clearly not himself just yet, and his stubborn foot sprain may have actually indeed been a break (which explains all the maddening will-he-or-won’t-he-play speculation earlier in the season). As we all know, Doty’s greatest strength lies in his mobility, as his passing game is still a fairly raw work in progress. Without that escapability, it’s much harder to paper over the faults of this bad offensive line, and he just generally can’t play up to his potential. This also applies to players like running backs Kevin Harris and MarShawn Lloyd, who both had offseason surgeries and are seemingly still getting their sea legs back under them. It’s gonna hurt when two of the biggest focal points in your offense aren’t 100%, and the blue-chip recruit finally getting action isn’t either.

Lack of depth. Firing a coach usually comes with attrition, and South Carolina letting go of Muschamp was no exception, even though it was the right move. The quarterbacks room, in particular, emptied out, leading to us watching a grad assistant don pads again in an emergency, only to get injured himself (while last year’s starter has now officially taken the reigns at Northwestern). The Gamecocks are just plain thin at multiple positions and don’t have a lot of options to turn to if particular players are injured or underperforming.

Lack of talent. This is, obviously, the big one, and should be Beamer’s absolute priority right now. It starts with the offensive line, but also extends to the receivers, who still can’t catch a cold. The receiver corps has been struggling for a few years now to have any reliable options behind the No. 1 guy, and this season, even the standout receiver is still operating on a boom-or-bust basis.

So, from my vantage point, this is what I see: An offense powered by a banged-up, limited quarterback and banged-up, limited running backs behind a porous offensive line with receivers who can’t execute even when the ball hits them in the chest. How is this supposed to be successful, no matter who’s up in the booth?

Now, I will say that skepticism about Satterfield is certainly warranted. This offense is not fun, exciting, or otherwise interesting to watch, and if fans feel that way, recruits surely do too. Beamer was undoubtedly backed into a corner when former OC Mike Bobo — who had been retained — decided to take off for the greener pastures of the Plains. For all his faults, I think most Bobo critics would admit that he was pretty good at run schemes, because the Gamecocks have largely the same personnel as 2020 and yet can’t get a ground game going. I need to see more creativity from Satterfield here, no doubt about that, but I worry that until the overall health of this unit improves, the offensive ceiling is low.