When head coach Shane Beamer stepped onto the podium ahead of his weekly media availability on Tuesday afternoon, he immediately addressed the South Carolina football team’s injury situation.
Beamer announced that a number of players, including two of South Carolina’s starters from last weekend — sophomore defensive back Nick Emmanwori and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Cason Henry — would be unlikely to appear in Saturday’s game against Furman. He also confirmed that redshirt junior linebacker Mohamed Kaba, who suffered a season-ending ACL tear last season against Arkansas, would miss another year due to a left knee injury.
“(The) kid worked his butt off throughout the offseason spring practice, was practicing with great energy and was truly loving being back out there, as you can imagine, (with a) smile on his face every day at practice,” Beamer said. “It really hurt for him. And I wish him well, but we’ll wrap our arms around him and we’ll see what the future holds.”
As the team looks to move forward in light of these injuries, Beamer said players must be “smart” in the way they practice, with a thin roster at many positions.
However, the Gamecocks have been battling injury woes long before the regular season started. Fifth-year offensive lineman Jaylen Nichols, who made seven starts at left tackle in 2022, suffered a knee injury during the spring game and is expected to miss the entire season.
Beamer said laying out contingency plans for injuries is something he and his staff discuss before each game day, but last Saturday’s matchup against the Tar Heels resulted in a particularly unfavorable scenario.
“The first thing was ‘Okay, let’s talk about the DB play. The one thing that would really put us in a bind is if we lost Nick or (sophomore defensive back DQ Smith), and we lose 'em on the first play or the first series,'” Beamer said. “Then, we talked about the offensive line and we said, ‘Okay, with our youth, the one thing that would really hurt us — that would be tough to overcome — would be if Cason got hurt, Cason or any of our tackles.”
Graduate student edge rusher Jordan Strachan, who tore his ACL during the same game Kaba did last season, has found himself in similar positions throughout his career. He said that the nature of the sport forces teams to embrace a “next man up” mentality, something South Carolina will undertake over the next few weeks.
“That’s the game of football. Football has injuries, so next man up,” Strachan said. “It sucks, but life goes on. We can’t stop playing, so you just got to move on.”
Along with Emmanwori, Henry and Kaba, freshman offensive lineman Markee Anderson, redshirt sophomore edge rusher Jatius Geer and redshirt senior defensive back David Spaulding were listed by Beamer as players who are on the shelf to begin the week. Should they still be inactive by game day, Beamer indicated that younger players could be filling up spaces on the depth chart before Saturday’s game.
Specifically at the linebacker position, this could mean the collegiate debut of freshman linebacker Grayson “Pup” Howard, one of the most highly-touted freshmen from this year’s class.
“We didn’t have him really going on any special teams because he hadn’t been practicing a lot," Beamer said. "Our defense did a better job of getting off the field in the second half than what they did in the first half, so he never got in there, but he could have gone, and (I) fully expect to see him play this week.”
Heading into the Furman game, South Carolina’s injury outlook is not all negative, though. Two receivers who left last week’s game and did not return — senior Antwane “Juice” Wells Jr. and fifth-year Ahmarean Brown — have been active in practice, according to Beamer.
“I asked (Juice) early on in practice, ‘How’re you feeling? What’s your mindset this week?’ And he said, ‘I’m playing, and don’t even try and limit me in practice today,’” Beamer said. “AB got hit in the ribs a little bit the other night, but he practiced today and was fine.”
In their absence, redshirt junior quarterback Luke Doty showcased his positional versatility by lining up at receiver on some plays. Doty said that he and his teammates are always willing to step up and help the team, no matter what the injury situation is.
“It doesn’t matter what capacity it is. If it’s me having a headset on the sideline watching defense and making calls … if it’s me out on special teams or playing wide receiver, then I’m all for it,” Doty said. “I think that’s always how I’ve been and … those guys are the same way — any way we can help the team, we’re going to make it happen.”