South Carolina football, Shane Beamer ready to run

Scott Davis has followed South Carolina athletics for over 40 years and provides commentary from the fans' perspective. He writes a weekly newsletter year-round and a column during football season published every Monday on

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Whatever you're wondering when it comes to South Carolina's preparations for the 2024 football season, head coach Shane Beamer has likely already addressed it while traveling across the state during the annual Welcome Home tour.

He hit the transfer portal. He talked about the healthy competition in South Carolina's wide receiver room. He talked about presumptive starting quarterback LaNorris Sellers, about the new additions that excited him the most, about the first-year coaches who joined the team over the winter.

And he also talked about the one thing most fans never wanted to talk about again.

He recognized the dark and troubling downward trend for South Carolina's running game.

“At the end of the day, we have to be able to run the ball more effectively than we have,” Beamer said at an event in Spartanburg. “Not just last year, but since I’ve been head coach.”

In fact, there is no real way to make the numbers look nice. South Carolina ranked last in the SEC in rushing football in 2023, both in total rushing yards and yards per attempt. The Gamecocks managed a paltry 85 yards per game on the ground last season, a staggering 2.77 yards per rush. These are not the statistics you want to include on your resume.

In case you're wondering what this all means, yes, Vanderbilt has rushed the football more effectively than South Carolina in 2023. Georgia, Tennessee and LSU have amassed two and a half times more rushing yards than the Gamecocks did last year. But if anything, the revealing numbers don't quite accurately reflect how terrifying it was felt watching South Carolina play football a season ago.

If this team needed a yard, the hope was that they would drop back to pass.

And for the Gamecock offense to have any chance of changing its fortunes in 2024, all of this must improve.

Of course, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. But no matter how much we talk about it, and no matter how much we wish we could talk about something else, it remains stubbornly and consistently the No. 1 topic for this program.

Until something changes.

Wide Receiver U?

While most die-hard Gamecock fans rarely felt like South Carolina's offense represented a high-flying, speedy running machine, the reality is that the program has quietly produced quality wide receivers over the past few decades.

Former Gamecock wideouts have graced NFL rosters for years, from Sterling Sharpe and Robert Brooks to newer players like Troy Williamson, Sidney Rice, Alshon Jeffery, Pharoh Cooper and Deebo Samuel. Even Will Muschamp's forgettable years produced a signature receiver in Bryan Edwards.

Because of that legacy, it wasn't at all surprising that the only South Carolina player selected in the first round of this year's NFL Draft was a receiver – Xavier Legette.

But despite the program's success in putting elite athletes on the field as receivers over the years, it hasn't always been a guarantee of offensive success. Here's an interesting fact: When South Carolina was competitive in the SEC, the team almost always had a strong running game.

It's hard to remember now, but Steve Spurrier's program included seven winning seasons and appearances in second division bowl games through 2010, which also happened to be the year everything changed for the Gamecock running game.

At this point, the staff began incorporating zone read schemes into the rushing attack, and a defensive lineman named Marcus Lattimore began piling up yards. The result was an appearance in the SEC Championship.

Even when Lattimore's career was cut short by injuries, successful players like Kenny Miles, Brandon Wilds and eventually Mike Davis stepped in to fill the void. Meanwhile, when Connor Shaw took over at quarterback, the team became a threat to accumulate rushing yards from the QB position as well.

These years marked, perhaps not coincidentally, the pinnacle of football in South Carolina. But in recent seasons, the ground game has been stuck in neutral and occasionally in reverse.

How do we get rid of it?

Find a solution

It's worth remembering that South Carolina's only Heisman Trophy winner was a running back. The statue you find in front of Williams-Brice Stadium is of George Rogers.

So yes, it can happen here.

But at the moment that's not happening here. And it hasn't been for some time: A look at the numbers reveals the ugly truth that South Carolina also struggled to run the football during much of Will Muschamp's tenure in Columbia.

The question is why. Is it due to a lack of top athletes at the position? Is it a lack of creativity in offensive intrigue? Or could it be something else, something that has been a source of consternation since South Carolina joined the SEC more than 30 years ago?

It is no secret to both Gamecock fans and the national college football media that South Carolina has struggled with offensive line play during a significant portion of the university's three-plus decades of operation in the SEC. At times, the O-line has delivered solid results and contributed to successful seasons. When the Gamecocks have been good over the last 30 years, they have always had an impressive offensive line.

Unless? Well, you know the story.

Since at least the early '90s – back when Shane Beamer still roamed the halls of Blacksburg High School – the South Carolina O-line's ongoing woes have been a source of confusion, frustration and utter sadness for Gamecock fans. That's why whenever it's difficult for the team to advance the ball a meter or two, many fans will look there first.

One way or another, South Carolina's hopes for a return to winning seasons and bowl game appearances rest in one place as the fourth year of the Beamer era approaches.

On the floor.

Tell me what you think about the opportunities for improvement in South Carolina running by writing to me at [email protected].

Anna Harden

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