South Carolina football head coach Shane Beamer has made multiple changes to his coaching staff following a 5-7 season that ended without a bowl game bid for the first time in his head coaching tenure.
Two of those new coaches, running backs coach Marquel Blackwell and wide receivers coach James Coley, are looking to improve the Gamecocks' offense to help the team achieve bowl eligibility in 2024. Both Blackwell and Coley talked about how building foundations and setting and upholding the standard are all important factors of communication.
Beamer also recently added longtime NFL special teams coach Joe DeCamillis as the team's new special teams coordinator. DeCamillis had worked in the NFL for over 30 years and has won two super bowl titles with the Broncos in 2015 and the Rams in 2021.
"It's my job as the head football coach to always evaluate everything that we're doing in our program year after year and looking at how we can be better," Beamer said. "And that's not just the 10 assistant coaches, that's every department in this building, including myself."
Blackwell, who played quarterback at South Florida and in the NFL for two season, was the running backs coach at Texas A&M last season.
He got his first job coaching running backs in 2012 at Western Kentucky and has held similar roles at Toledo, West Virginia, Houston and Ole Miss during his coaching career.
Blackwell's hire is one of many changes to a running backs room that averaged just 85.1 rushing yards per game last season, which ranked last in the SEC.
The Gamecocks have since used the transfer portal to revamp the roster at that position, adding running backs junior Raheim "Rocket" Sanders from Arkansas, junior Oscar Adaway III from North Texas and freshman Jawarn Howell from South Carolina State.
Blackwell said he is looking forward to working with the newcomers and running backs who remained on the roster from last season.
“What we want to do is build a strong foundation where we support, take care of each other (and) make sure we're getting better every day and doing things the right way," Blackwell said. "I'm looking for those guys to be, first of all, be the great leaders of the offense. And hopefully, we could be leaders of the team, which would develop to being a special group."
The team's most notable addition at running back is Sanders, who ran for 1,443 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Razorbacks in 2022. But his production was limited last season after he injured his knee in Arkansas' season opener against Western Carolina and appeared in just six games.
After competing against Sanders for the last two seasons, Blackwell said he is excited to have a running back like him at his disposal.
"(He's a) great football player. Talking to him the last couple days, a great person," Blackwell said. “Looking forward to him coming in and competing and getting this (running back) room to be an elite room in the SEC.”
Blackwell said it will be especially important for him to utilize communication to ensure that all the running backs, many of whom are new to South Carolina's offense, are on the same page when it comes to learning the playbook. Several lines of communication between players and coaches are needed, he said.
"I'm not a guy that's just gonna sit back and say, 'Hey, this is the only way you do things,'" Blackwell said. "You got a lot of different guys that come from a lot of different places that you got to relate a lot of different ways. So just being open, honest, but understanding what the standard is and holding them to it.”
Coley was also a part of Texas A&M’s coaching staff this past year as a wide receivers coach, a position he had held with the Aggies since 2020. Along with more than a decade of experience coaching in the SEC, Coley has also spent time in the NFL as an offensive assistant with the Miami Dolphins.
Coley developed a relationship with Beamer while the two were members of Kirby Smart's coaching staff at Georgia in 2016 and 2017, the year the Bulldogs appeared in its first College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
Coley has always respected Beamer and believed he had the capabilities of being a head coach one day, he said.
"From the first day at Georgia, you saw a guy who was driven and had all the qualities that — I sat there and I said, 'This guy's going to be a head coach pretty soon,'" Coley said. "(He was) organized, passionate about the players, always about the players first.
Coley will lead a wide receiver position group that has a mix of experience and potential.
The Gamecocks added wide receivers junior Jared Brown from Coastal Carolina and junior Gage Larvadain from Miami University in Ohio via the transfer portal as well as incoming freshman Mazeo Bennett on the recruiting trail. South Carolina also has young prospects, including former five-star recruit and freshman Nyck Harbor, who will be looking to prove themselves at the college level.
With the new additions, Coley said the Gamecocks' wide receivers have the potential to be among one of the top units in the nation.
"When you see my guys on the field, our guys, you want to see a bunch of competitors, not a lot of 'me' guys. That'll come — your 'me' time will come," Coley said. "They want to be the best in this conference because if you're the best in this conference, you'll be the best in the country."
South Carolina will have its first opportunity to showcase its new-look offense when it takes on Old Dominion to open the 2024 season on Aug. 31 at home.