South Carolina football exceeded all expectations last season, winning seven games and defeating North Carolina in the Duke's Mayo Bowl. Players focused on how they can continue to work towards their championship aspirations during July's SEC Media Days.
"Yeah, we did good last year, but can we do better? Yes, we can," redshirt senior offensive lineman Jovaughn Gwyn said. "In order to do that, we have to put last year to the side and focus on this year and can't worry about what we did last year. Even with them teams that we played and we beat, we have to treat it as a new year."
Heading into the 2022 season, the team set its expectations high.
"I think it's our goal for us to be the most consistent team in the SEC right now — that's our goal," redshirt senior wide receiver Dakereon Joyner said. "Last year was a great thing to capitalize off of because we were projected to win two games. To go on to win seven in year one under coach (Shane) Beamer, I think that says a lot. It's scary to think about what we're going to do in year two, we're excited."
With a roster that features returning veterans and incoming talent, Beamer said he's seen many take notice of what the Gamecocks are building.
"People are talking about us nationally, which is what we want. We have high expectations at South Carolina. People are talking about our players as individuals more nationally than what they were last year," Beamer said. "There's more buzz about this program right now, and the key for us — the challenge for us — will be being mature enough to handle that the right way as a football team and understand the work ethic that it's going to take to get back to what we did last season."
Most of the pressure surrounding the team this year will be on redshirt junior quarterback Spencer Rattler, who transferred from Oklahoma. However, Beamer said he's not worried about Rattler, as he knows he can handle anything that comes his way.
"He had some pretty high amount of pressure replacing a guy by the name of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts ... He's been through the fire before," Beamer said. "I saw firsthand how he handled it when he was at Oklahoma and started out 0-2. Never flinched and continued to get better."
Even SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy believes South Carolina can "make a lot of noise," depending on Rattler's play.
"If he can return to some of the form we saw at the end of the 2020 season, they could be stepping into a situation where they have maybe the second, at worst third, best quarterback in the SEC," McElroy said on his Always College Football show.
In addition to Rattler, the Gamecocks brought in eight transfers. With the closeness of last year's team, Beamer said getting the new players adjusted as quickly as possible is important.
"We're very intentional about that, building a team and do as much as we can as a team from January up until the start of the season, really throughout the season to continue to build that closeness," Beamer said. "This year we've got obviously some impact guys, name guys, but the way we handle things, and how intentional we are about building a team doesn't change."
Joyner said the team is confident in what they can accomplish.
"The sky's the limit for us this year," Joyner said. "We just gotta continue the older guys lead and be the face of this program and allow the young guys to come behind us."