The Daily Gamecock

Preview: Gamecocks look to start season strong against Georgia State

For Gamecock football head coach Shane Beamer, starting his second season as the leader of the program is just as nerve-racking as his first go-around.

Beamer said there are plenty of unknowns about his team heading into week one. The team features a variety of new faces in key positions that, as a group, have not faced any competition apart from their teammates. 

“I love game ones, but game ones stink in a lot of ways too,” Beamer said. “There’s so many unknowns because you’ve been practicing against yourself for so long, it’ll be the first time they go out in an environment like that, we are playing a lot of new players, freshman, transfers … as far as the nerves or any of that, no, it’s still sky-high.”

These unknowns will be put to the test when South Carolina football kicks off its 2022 season Saturday against the Georgia State Panthers at 7:30 p.m. under the lights of Willams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks will look to start its next campaign strong when the team welcomes the Panthers to Columbia for the first meeting in the two schools' history. 

Redshirt junior quarterback Spencer Rattler will see his first action as a Gamecock against a Georgia State defense that returned eight starters and set school records in sacks and tackles for loss.

“We just want to go out there and execute on every level and dominate,” Rattler said. “We want to go out there and not react, but do what we do and give it to them.”

Rattler will lead an offense that was revamped in the offseason. Besides Rattler, the team added graduate tight end Austin Stogner, junior wide receivers Antwane Wells Jr. and Corey Rucker and graduate running back Christain Beal-Smith from the transfer portal. Wells is confident that if the Gamecocks stick to the game plan, then they will leave the stadium 1-0. 

“I ain’t going to lie, we just going to go out there and kill them,” Wells said. “It’s not too much to it, we are just going to go out there and ball.”

Panther’s head coach and former Gamecock assistant Shawn Elliot returns to his hometown for the first time since taking the job at Georgia State in 2017. Elliot was the offensive line coach for the Gamecocks for seven seasons and served as interim coach in 2015 after former head coach Steve Spurrier resigned.

Georgia State’s offense returned the team’s top three rushers. Senior running backs Tucker Gregg and former Gamecock Jamyest Willams combined for 1,812 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Senior quarterback Darren Grainger finished with the 12th most rushing yards among quarterbacks in the FBS level with 646. He passed for 1,715 yards and 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions.

“We’ve made a big point of emphasis about running the ball and stopping the run, but we’ll find out how much progress we've made Saturday night — these guys were 8th in the country last year in running the football,” Beamer said. 

The Gamecocks should be healthy come game time Saturday. The only exception is Rucker who Beamer said has “a ways to go.”

This game will also be the first played in the newly renovated Willams-Brice and the team’s live mascot, formerly known as Sir Big Spur, will make his first appearance under his new name, The General. At halftime, former Gamecock defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will have his jersey retired.

“Anytime we get our former players back, I love it,” Beamer said. “To have a guy of Jadeveon’s magnitude to be back, I mean just what that signing meant.”

Overall, the main thing Beamer said he wants to see in the game is a team that is efficient and well-coached. Limiting penalties and doing the little things like making clean tackles will help the team cap the night with a win.

“It’s game one, it’s the first time you’ve been through this stuff,” Beamer said. “It’s not all going to be great out there on Saturday night, there is going to be some adversity that we have to deal with throughout the game, how do we deal with it? And seeing how we respond from that standpoint will be key.”