New transfers are getting accustomed to their roles as the South Carolina football team begins its spring practices.
The team added nine players from the transfer portal with hopes that some of them will step in and fill necessary roles next season. Eager for a fresh start, these players are hoping for the opportunity to impress early and contribute this upcoming season.
Graduate student tight ends Trey Knox and Joshua Simon were both rated four stars by 247Sports and will fill a positional need that was created with the departures of junior tight ends Jaheim Bell, who went to Florida State, and senior tight end Austin Stogner, who returned to Oklahoma.
“I feel like we’re all on equal grounds right now,” Simon said. “Everybody is working every day to compete to get a job. Nothing is really set in stone.”
Over the past four seasons Simon spent at Western Kentucky, he caught 86 passes for 1,146 yards with 16 touchdowns. He is ranked third in the university's history for receptions by a tight end.
The team also added redshirt sophomore Nick Elksnis to the tight end room. The transfers will join four freshman tight ends on the roster as well.
“Nobody has the sense of familiarity, because the whole room is brand new,” Knox said. “It’s been exciting to go in there and actually meet these new guys. Josh and I have taken the leadership role of the room, and I think that Nick is a great addition to the room too.”
Knox is the highest-rated incoming transfer and the only incoming tight end with any SEC experience at the position. He followed his former position coach and new Gamecock offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains from Arkansas, where he spent four years and transitioned to the tight end position after playing as a wide receiver his freshman year.
“Coach Loggains and I have a great connection (and) a very special relationship,” Knox said. “I’m just happy to be here and be around these great people.”
In his Arkansas career, Knox caught 81 passes for 892 yards and nine touchdowns in 45 games played.
Redshirt senior running back Mario Anderson is expected to compete for the starting running back role in his first season with South Carolina. Anderson spent the last three seasons at Division II Newberry College, where he became the school's third all-time leader in rushing yards and earned first-team All-America honors in 2022.
“I come in with a little extra sense of hunger,” Anderson said. “I’m excited to know that (Coach Beamer) has trusted me and my abilities to bring me in from a DII level, rather than getting someone else from the SEC.”
Anderson said he and junior running back JuJu McDowell have connected since his arrival in January, and said that McDowell has been showing him the ropes.
“He’s also been embracing his role fully," McDowell said. "A lot of people had questions about him coming from another division, but Mario is a football player. There’s some things you can teach, and at the end of the day you can’t teach someone to be a football player, let alone a running back at that, and he’s a terrific one.”
The Gamecocks also got relief in receiving after losing four of its top five pass catchers from a season ago.
Graduate student wide receiver Eddie Lewis transferred from Memphis after a career-best year. In 2022, he appeared in 13 games, earning 41 receptions for 603 yards and seven touchdowns while also playing as a returner.
“I’m just trying to find a spot, honestly, (to) come in and compete,” Lewis said. “That's what everybody’s here to do.”
To round out the offensive transfers, the team brought in two additions to add offensive line depth. Graduate student Nick Gargiulo and redshirt sophomore Sidney Fugar said they both bought into South Carolina's team culture.
“I felt like it was a place that I could come and really fine-tune my game,” Garigulo said. “I felt like I could really succeed in a place like this.”
Redshirt freshman linebacker Jaron Willis is a four-star transfer from Ole Miss. Willis played in one game last year with the Rebels and was redshirted.
“I was just trying to find a new home, just trying to find — I guess what you could say — a different fit,” Willis said. “Just having a new opportunity here.”
Graduate student defensive back DeAngelo Gibbs is the only other incoming defensive transfer for the Gamecocks.
Gibbs has not played in a game since 2018, but he will get a shot to compete for a comeback with South Carolina.
“(Coach Beamer) knows who I am,” Gibbs, who played for Georgia the same time Beamer was on staff there, said. “He knows what I can do and how I can help this university, help the organization (and) help the team.”
Gibbs played in 13 games with the Bulldogs. He then transferred to Tennessee and began playing as a wide receiver, but he never appeared in a game.
“After my redshirt year at Tennessee, as you guys know, COVID hit, and I had some things going on (and) a lot of questions that were unanswered, so I decided to opt out,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs is back to playing in his previous position with the Gamecocks. Gibbs said his journey to this moment has been harsh, but his increased maturity has gotten him to a point where he can succeed.
“That’s one thing I can truly say about this university. They push the guys to be the best that they can be,” Gibbs said. “Not just as ball players — but of course as ball players — but as men overall, and that’s what I truly respect.”