COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Shane Beamer is usually thrilled to hit the field for spring football practice.
South Carolina’s first-year head coach is even more excited that the focus is back on the team and not the up-and-down stretch he’s had since becoming a first-time head coach.
The Gamecocks start workouts Saturday under Beamer, who was hired in December to take over for Will Muschamp.
”Super fired up to be starting spring practice,” Beamer said. ”We’re a different-looking football team than what we were when I was hired in December. We’re farther ahead of the game than we would be in normal years.”
Beamer, the 43-year-old son of college coaching great Frank Beamer, and the Gamecocks had a long, long way to go.
Shane Beamer had to hire 14 assistants for his staff of 10 when four of those he hired, including ex-Gamecocks interim head coach and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, left for other jobs after accepting Beamer’s offer.
The past two seasons, the Gamecocks went 6-16, including 5-13 in the Southeastern Conference, leading to Muschamp’s dismissal last November with three games remaining in the COVID-19 impacted season.
Players also turned over on both sides of the ball. The offense lost a pair of starting quarterbacks in Ryan Hilinski, the 2019 starter who transferred to Northwestern, and Collin Hill, last season’s starter who passed up the chance to return for a sixth college season.
On defense, South Carolina lost several key performers to the NFL draft including expected first-rounder in cornerback Jaycee Horn and leading tackler in linebacker Ernest Jones.
Defensive departures since have included high-profile recruits like five-star passer Gunner Stockton, who was committed to the Gamecocks from August until January before changing to Georgia following South Carolina’s coaching change.
Still, Beamer believes the players have pushed past the problems. He’s seen growth in intensity and commitment in offseason workouts the past three months.
”We got a great group of guys on this team who are hungry,” Beamer said. ”They are motivated to have success and to have it soon. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do.
”There’ve been some bumps along the way,” Beamer acknowledged, ”and we’ve dealt with them like a family.”
Beamer settled on Marcus Satterfield as offensive coordinator after Bobo, who was given a new contract by South Carolina, left for Auburn in mid-January.
Satterfield, also quarterbacks coach, is handling a position where only rising sophomore Luke Doty has started a game at South Carolina.
But no one, including Doty who threw for 405 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in starting the final three games, has a lock on the starting lineup.
Beamer said everyone has a clean slate heading into spring practice, 15 sessions ending with the annual Garnet & Black game on April 24.
”Ideally, we’d love to stay healthy throughout this spring,” he said. ”I think the biggest thing is from an overall standpoint, learning the mentality and the temperament and the physicality we want to play with every single time we take the field. We’ve got to develop depth.”
Getting to know each other will be a start. Beamer’s staff includes only one holdover in outside linebacker-defensive ends coach Mike Peterson and the new head coach added several transfers to fill out roster numbers.
Beamer purposely pushed back the start of spring workouts so players could have more time in the weight room bonding with staff and teammates.
”We needed that, and I’m so thankful that we did,” he said.
The work to discover how well they’ll compete on the field starts this weekend. Beamer hopes to bring a positive outlook to a program that’s needed an uplift from the past couple of seasons.
”We’ve got a strong, strong work ethic here,” he said, ”and a strong, strong desire to be successful.”
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