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Beamer, South Carolina Making Moves

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Shane Beamer and South Carolina have considerable momentum. They also have college football's full attention.

I got the call yesterday about renewing my season tickets, so I guess I'll have to do that.
~Steve Taneyhill

Already, there is a special energy around South Carolina.

In a debut season where the Gamecocks have exceeded outside expectations, advanced to the Duke's Mayo Bowl and now are welcoming in a heralded group of recruits and transfers, South Carolina has suddenly become one of college football's leading names. Late season wins over Florida and Auburn combined with the additions of Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, the biggest name in the portal, and tight end Austin Stogner, now have many people thinking 2001 in 2021. This isn't just an odyssey, but an opportunity as well.

Shane Beamer and South Carolina have considerable momentum. They also have college football's full attention.

Simply put, Rattler's transfer is a game-changer for the Gamecocks. South Carolina is immediately home to one of college football's biggest stars. Though he ultimately lost his job to Caleb Williams at Oklahoma, Rattler heads east with credentials that include 4,595 career passing yards, 70.1% completions and 49 touchdowns in 17 starts. His resume, including two Big 12 Championships and, in 2020, MVP honors, also comes with rings. What Rattler brings to the Gamecocks is a national profile and the potential to be a high NFL Draft pick. 

The top quarterback recruit in the country in 2019, Rattler threw for over 3,000 yards with 28 passing touchdowns as a redshirt freshman in 2020. He finished 11th nationally in passer rating, directly between Justin Fields at ten and Trevor Lawrence at 12. Rattler, in less than a half-season's worth of play as a sophomore this fall, did score 14 times and complete 74.9% of his attempts. Still with more to offer, but having proven himself at college football's highest level, Rattler's scouting report is one of both potential and production.

Stogner, with 47 career receptions for 654 yards and eight touchdowns, nine total scores counting a blocked punt return as a freshman, comes with Rattler as an All-Big 12 playmaker.

The direction, for South Carolina, is forward. Expectations are very much on the rise. That said, the foundation for the future was laid this season. Against the odds, including turning to a graduate assistant to start at quarterback, the Gamecocks found a way. While there may have been doubts and uncertainty from afar, those inside the South Carolina program played with a deep camaraderie and conviction. Even early on, the Gamecocks believed in each other; those bonds only strengthened with time.    

"I think what Coach Beamer and his staff and those kids did this year is definitely progress," nodded former South Carolina star quarterback Steve Taneyhill. "No one wants to go 6-6 but when we come off obviously a rough season and you fire the coach and bring in a new staff, to get to the bowl game is impressive. And I think that the players as well as coaches should be congratulated on a season where everyone counted them out except them."

The additions of Rattler and Stogner, both of whom Beamer coached at Oklahoma, have only added to the excitement in Columbia. What the Gamecocks are offering has a national appeal. With a program featuring perhaps the best facilities in college football and a pitch-man sharing an aggressive and confident and vision, the South Carolina brand is one that is resonating beyond the region. People around the country are talking about the Gamecocks and Beamer is a big reason why.

A program built on relationships continues to benefit from them. 

"I think it has a lot to do with Coach Beamer, his personality and how good of a recruiter he is," Taneyhill continued. "He recruited a lot of guys in his first go-round at South Carolina that ended up being great players and obviously he did a heck of job at Oklahoma and really everywhere he's been."

In the game today, the transfer portal has become an important factor in roster construction and, correspondingly, program building. Proper evaluation and, essentially, re-recruitment, can help accelerate any timeline towards contention. Having coached at Virginia Tech, Georgia and Oklahoma in recent years, Beamer is well-traveled in addition to being well-respected. His past experiences continue to shape his current one. Rattler and Stogner are two of the latest examples.     

"The transfer portal is big, especially for a program like ours, just trying to get started," Taneyhill added. "The landscape has changed. Now, you're going to have to get notes on all those kids that you recruited that went somewhere else, just in case they're unhappy or they want more playing time and they come back out. And those relationships are going to be important. Like I said, the landscape has changed and obviously Coach Beamer had a good enough relationship, and the draw of the SEC, to get two players from Oklahoma."

Looking ahead, Rattler might be the most fascinating player in all of college football next season. He is, without question, one of the game's most recognizable names. The bright lights of the SEC now await. South Carolina will be in the headlines throughout the spring, summer and, if all goes according to plan, the fall. Rattler, like Beamer, has fans and media from all over talking about the Gamecocks. South Carolina hopes to contend against some of the top programs in the country by, first, challenging the status quo. The Gamecocks are going for it. 

For Rattler, success at South Carolina will need to start before he ever takes a snap. Though Rattler's transfer will come with national attention, any steps towards national contention will start on the practice fields.  

"First and foremost, he's gotta come in and show that he's a team guy," Taneyhill explained. "The day he walks in the door, everyone is gonna know who he is. He's gonna go from Oklahoma and come to South Carolina as the most popular player on the team, especially from the outside looking in. What he needs to do is make sure he rallies that group inside the locker room by outworking everybody, learning that playbook, getting with those receivers, learning those guys. He's got a lot of work to do from tomorrow to the first game."

The spotlight will be there. It, in fact, already is. In a year where South Carolina faced a schedule many pundits deemed the toughest in the country, the often-injured and inexperienced Gamecocks still made it to the postseason. They made a point along the way. Regardless of what the projections might be, South Carolina has its purpose. A victory over North Carolina in the Duke's Mayo Bowl would give the Gamecocks, a team most overlooked entering kickoff, a winning season.  

South Carolina wants to be a leading program in college football's top conference. Clearly, the Gamecocks are making their move. South Carolina is well on its way. 

"There were some good Saturdays for Gamecock fans this year. Obviously the ending wasn't the greatest we could hope for, but we are going to a bowl game, we get another month to practice," Taneyhill offered. "And I think the trend is heading up."

Anticipation continues to build, both for the bowl game and beyond. There is a spirit to South Carolina that is only growing. The atmosphere at the Clemson game, though the final outcome wasn't what was wanted, was a testament to all of that enthusiasm and zeal. Beamer is currently channeling that passion, on the field and on the trail. The results are already there. More are coming.

While improvements obviously stilll need to be made, there is a growing sentiment that something significant is happening.

"I think that has a lot to do with Coach Beamer," Taneyhill shared of the scene on Senior Day. "Hopefully we get in more and more big, giant games. Our fans are the greatest. South Carolina fans are die-hard and they'll pack that place to watch a team that they feel like can win. If we're going out there and playing with some effort and we log some wins. Next year is gonna be awesome. I can't wait."

At a place where cabooses are part of the gameday tradition, the Shane Train is full speed ahead. As South Carolina starts its engines, many are getting on board.

"I got the call yesterday about renewing my season tickets, so I guess I'll have to do that," Taneyhill laughed.

There is a lot to like about South Carolina. College football is taking notice.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports