The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina football transfers play important role in Gamecocks' on-field success during 2022 season

<p>FILE—Junior wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. attempts to shake off a tackle after catching a pass during the matchup between South Carolina and South Carolina State on Sept. 29, 2022. The Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs 50-10.</p>
FILE—Junior wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. attempts to shake off a tackle after catching a pass during the matchup between South Carolina and South Carolina State on Sept. 29, 2022. The Gamecocks beat the Bulldogs 50-10.

Prior to the 2022 season, the South Carolina football team bolstered its roster by adding 10 players from the transfer portal, and many of these players played a vital role in the Gamecocks' success on both sides of the ball. 

The Gamecocks’ top transfer portal pickup was redshirt junior quarterback Spencer Rattler, a former five-star recruit who transferred from the University of Oklahoma. After experiencing some growing pains early in the season, Rattler made the necessary adjustments with former offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield to help South Carolina win crucial games toward the end of the season. 

"It’s definitely been a challenge learning, especially early on. Not a challenge, but something different for me,” Rattler said during a press conference on Sept. 1. “It was fun for me to learn something new and something that’s gonna benefit me as a player this year and moving forward.”

Rattler threw for only two touchdowns in the Gamecocks' first four games, including zero scores against Georgia and Charlotte, but evolved into a leader on the offensive side of the ball as he started each of the team's 13 games. By the end of the season, Rattler led the team to an 8-5 record and threw for 18 touchdowns and a 66.2% completion percentage. 

“I think this offense is great. I think the schemes Coach Satterfield puts together are outstanding. Everybody bought in, and everybody knows their stuff,” Rattler said. “For me, it was definitely an adjustment. But, with the help of the coaches and players as well, it’s been a smooth transition.”

Junior wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. joined the Gamecocks from James Madison prior to the season and made a name for himself in his first season at the FBS level. Wells recorded 928 receiving yards and six touchdowns on his way to being named to the All-SEC first team. 

"I feel like I made a good adjustment learning the plays and going out there and feeling comfortable," Wells said. "It's like a pro-style offense." 

For some players, including graduate defensive back Devonni Reed, adapting to life off the field at a new school can present its own challenges. Reed, a Michigan native and Central Michigan University graduate, said the biggest adjustment in moving to South Carolina was the weather. 

“Hurricanes scare me. I've never been in one, but I've always seen videos on the internet of the damage that they do,” Reed said before the Gamecocks' Sept. 29 matchup against S.C. State, which was moved forward due to Hurricane Ian. “I never wanted to be a part of one, so with the hurricane going to hit Florida soon, it kind of startled me.” 

On the field, Reed was a key part of the Gamecock defense with 39 total tackles, including 28 solo tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, despite injury issues late in the season.  

In the offensive backfield, graduate running back Christian Beal-Smith came in from Wake Forest, where he was a 2020 Phil Steel third-team All-ACC selection and scored a career-best seven touchdowns in his last year with the Demon Deacons. At South Carolina, Beal-Smith added experience and much-needed depth to the running back position while adjusting to the Gamecocks’ offense behind redshirt sophomore MarShawn Lloyd.

“Coming from a slow-pace offense where we’re skipping to the line of scrimmage and reading the linebackers very slowly. Now, you’re going right downhill. That’s something I’ve never done before,” Beal-Smith said. “It’s something I’m getting adjusted to.”

Despite battling injuries throughout the season, Beal-Smith made the adjustment and rushed for 156 yards and scored five touchdowns for South Carolina, including two against Charlotte on Sept. 24.

Graduate tight end Nate Adkins, a three-time All-SoCon selection while at East Tennessee State, had a limited role early in the season but was pivotal in the Gamecocks' 31-30 victory against Clemson on Nov. 26. Adkins totaled a season-high 62 yards and caught a 32-yard pass — his longest reception of the season — in the win. 

“This is my only year here, but I'm glad I was a part of this,” Adkins said. “I'm glad I could come over here and help out as much as possible and make memories like this. These are memories that me and all my teammates, all the coaches and all the staff are going to remember for the rest of our lives.”

While some transfers made a smooth transition to their new home, others were limited by injury. Junior wide receiver Corey Rucker led Arkansas State with nine receiving touchdowns in the 2021 before transferring to USC. Rucker was expected to play a big role in the Gamecocks' passing game but only played in two games before a foot injury ended his season. 

Fifth-year edge and Georgia State transfer Jordan Strachan was with Rucker as an impact transfer who lost much of the season to injury. Strachan started for the Gamecocks against Georgia State and Arkansas, recording 10 total tackles, but missed the remainder of the season with an ACL injury. 

After seeing the success of this year's class of transfer players, South Carolina has already started adding players from the portal for next season, including senior tight end Trey Knox from Arkansas and freshman linebacker Jaron Willis from Ole Miss. 

The first window of opportunity for transfer players to be offered by South Carolina closes on Jan. 18, and the second and final transfer window will come between May 1 and May 15.