South Carolina running back Kevin Harris (20) runs against Tennessee on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020 in Columbia, S.C. (Travis Bell/SIDELINE CAROLINA)
2020 Results: 2-8, 2-8 (SEC)
2021 Projection: 4-8, 1-7
Shane Beamer may have won SEC Media Days with his energy and enthusiasm, but that will only take his Gamecocks so far in 2021. There are simply too many holes to fill on both sides of the ball to expect too much in year one.
An offense can only go as far as their quarterback can carry them, and just who will be taking snaps for the Gamecocks is up in the air. Luke Doty started the final two games of the season, but freshman Colten Gauthier and FCS transfer Jason Brown are in position to battle it out for the starting job. No matter who wins, the Gamecocks enter the season unproven at the most important position on offense.
They do have a pair of excellent tailbacks in Kevin Harris and MarShawn Lloyd and 3 of five starters return on the offensive line. With no proven leaders at receiver, it’s not rocket science to assume this will be a run heavy team in 2021. If they can find some success in the passing game they may overachieve, but expectation for this offense should be tempered in Beamers first season.
The most shocking aspect of the Will Muschamp era at South Carolina was just how bad the defense had fallen off year by year. Coach Boom couldn’t have been happy with a unit that allowed 36 points a game and 450 plus yards a contest.
While the defensive line returns a lot of talent and should certainly be the strength of the defense this season, it might not be enough to overcome the deficiencies at linebacker and in the secondary.
Ernest Jones and Jaycee Horn were the leaders of those two units and there seemingly is no heir apparent to replace their production. Damani Staley was often exposed last season and will be the most experience linebacker returning while everyone and anyone that made plays in the secondary last season no longer resides in Columbia. That spells trouble.
Both Parker White and Kai Kroeger return to handle the kicking duties, shoring up the most stable unit outside of the running back position.
Shane Beamer will get a long leash at South Carolina and he will need it. This is not a knock on him in the slightest. The cupboard is just too bare in Columbia to achieve an immediate turnaround. The Cocks could still surprise a few teams this season, but bowl eligibility is a reach. Especially with Auburn and Texas A&M serving as crossover games along with Clemson waiting to cap off the season.