Less than a week away from its season-opener, the South Carolina football team is still working out some kinks in the game plan, but head coach Shane Beamer and players are eager to take the field.
Beamer said during his weekly media availability that he is excited to kick off the new season, but the team’s effort in practice Tuesday did not match that of a team that has a game this week.
“Just disappointed that it would be game week and not have the physical mindset and intensity and urgency that we need to have,” Beamer said. “It wasn’t bad altogether … you don’t want to overreact — and I’m not — but there also needs to be a mindset and an intent to get better.”
This week marks the end of a fall camp that focused on the players adjusting to different roles and new additions to the coaching staff.
Redshirt senior quarterback Spencer Rattler, who is entering his second year as a Gamecock, said new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains' wealth of experience has significantly eased his transition into the season.
“(I’m) just more comfortable with this offense,” Rattler said. “I feel like it suits me a lot better, and not just me, but the group as a whole. Got a coach that’s coached a long time in the NFL coaching quarterbacks, and I feel real confident with him.”
Beamer said the offense is designed to be fast-paced and balanced, which will give Rattler the chance to play the way he wants.
“Just trying to let our guys get out there and play fast and get our best players on the field and be multiple,” Beamer said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to do that on Saturday night, and that’s what we've tried to do since January.”
According to sixth-year running back Dakereon Joyner, opening against a ranked team like No. 21 North Carolina gives the offense the opportunity to show the country just how good they are.
“We’ve had a great camp, had a great summer, great spring. Now, it's time to go just unleash it on somebody else and go show the world what we can do,” Joyner said.
Despite strides made in perfecting the new system, Beamer said the offense is not a finished product.
“There’s still some question marks,” Beamer said. “That receiver rotation … I know the depth chart came out, but that’s still a work in progress.”
The Gamecocks' first depth chart, released earlier this week, features a mix of players new to the team or in a new spot alongside veterans like Rattler. Sixth-year running back Dakereon Joyner will play his first game at the position after splitting time between quarterback and wide receiver over the last five years. He said fall camp gave him some confidence heading into week one, but he still wants to find ways to keep improving as the season progresses.
“I still got some growing to do,” Joyner said. “I’m definitely growing, just have to continue to trust my training, my coaches, trust my eyes, and I’ll be okay.”
On defense, sophomore linebacker Stone Blanton will start for the first time in his career after being listed atop the middle linebacker group on the depth chart. Blanton saw action in 12 games as a freshman, recording seven total tackles, and said he feels ready to play coming out of fall camp.
“This preseason was really fun,” Blanton said. “Worked really hard, feel like I’m playing fast right now, just going to rely on that and play physical come Saturday.”
Beamer said the coaching staff plans to get many of the team's freshmen in the mix, but it will be a matter of who is ready to play at a high level in game one.
“There’s still things to be determined,” Beamer said. “I feel good about where we are right now. Certainly, there’s some things that maybe I felt I was hoping we’d be a little bit farther at.”
The first game will help answer some questions, but regardless of the outcome against North Carolina, Beamer said the team is looking to get better each week of the season.