The Daily Gamecock

South Carolina Gamecock football ranks nationally in recruiting despite tough losses to the transfer portal

<p>Football head coach Shane Beamer walks down the sideline during South Carolina’s game against Florida on Oct. 14, 2023, at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks lost 21 players to the transfer portal after the 2023 season.</p>
Football head coach Shane Beamer walks down the sideline during South Carolina’s game against Florida on Oct. 14, 2023, at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks lost 21 players to the transfer portal after the 2023 season.

The University of South Carolina's football team has fallen victim to the new normal in college football — the transfer portal.

With the new rules implemented by the NCAA, athletes can transfer freely and utilize the portal to make more money off their name, image and likeness. The portal has become one of the most utilized recruiting assets as a result. 

Head coach Shane Beamer and the rest of his coaching staff faced scrutiny on social media as 21 names flooded the portal at the end of the 2023 season.  

But the Gamecocks are being productive and filling holes in the roster, according to On3. South Carolina ranks fourth in the nation in team transfer portal rankings after signing 14 new players. 

One of the earliest, highest-ranked prospects is junior running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders. The transfer from Arkansas had a breakout season, accumulating 1,443 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns in the 2022 season as well as earning 2022 First Team All-SEC honors. Sanders grappled with a knee injury in the 2023 season opener, sidelining him for most of the year. 

“Going back and watching all of his tapes from 2022, and then the little bit that he played this season, you realize just how talented he is,” Beamer said. “For a big guy like that to be — to have a burst, to have such quick feet, to be able to break tackles ... he's a really, really talented guy."

The Gamecocks will look to Sanders to fill the gap left by redshirt senior running back Mario Anderson, along with two other portal additions.

Junior running back Oscar Adaway III looks to add experience to the role as he transfers from the University of North Texas. Adaway amassed 1,935 yards on 344 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per carry in his tenure at North Texas. 

The Gamecocks will also add the FCS Football Central Freshman All-American Jawarn Howell to the room. In his one year at South Carolina State, the running back provided 809 yards in 102 carries for seven rushing touchdowns and two receiving. 

The revamped room will also be accompanied by a coaching change. South Carolina announced last Wednesday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that it would be parting ways with running backs coach Montario Hardesty.

South Carolina softened the blow of other key offensive exits, such as senior wide receiver Antwane "Juice" Wells Jr. and redshirt sophomore wide receiver O’Mega Blake, by bringing in three new wide receivers to refresh the room. 

The Gamecocks' first pickup was redshirt junior Jared Brown from Coastal Carolina, a playmaker that garnered 1,534 receiving yards and 11 receiving touchdowns in his time at Conway.

South Carolina will also welcome junior wide receiver Ahmari Huggins-Bruce back to his home state. Huggins-Bruce had a productive three years with the Louisville Cardinals, finishing his junior year with 20 receptions, 312 yards and four touchdowns. 

Rounding out the receiver room is junior wide receiver Gage Larvadain from Miami (OH). Larvadain looks to contribute his return skills to the team after recording 679 yards last season along with five punt returns for 55 yards. 

The Gamecocks felt the hardest hit on the defensive line when it came to losses in the portal. The promising pair from the recruiting class of 2023 — freshman defensive lineman Xzavier McLeod and freshman linebacker Grayson “Pup” Howard — both entered the transfer portal at the end of December. 

The two were highly coveted recruits, and McLeod and Howard have already found their new landing spots at the University of Georgia and the University of Florida, respectively. 

South Carolina looked to the ACC for transfers to fulfill depth at the edge position. Junior edge rusher Kyle Kennard from Georgia Tech comes with a stacked resume from his time with the Yellow Jackets, racking up 115 total tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in his four-year tenure. 

The Gamecocks will also take in redshirt senior defensive lineman DeAndre Jules from Pittsburg, who totaled 24 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble in 2023. 

"DeAndre's awesome. He's a big body defensive tackle that has twitch and athleticism, really productive tape," Beamer said. "Another one that had other schools that were, he went on visits to and was about to fly from our place to somewhere else and wanted this to be the place that he ended up." 

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Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Monkell Goodwine will make the move to Columbia after receiving little playing time in three seasons at Alabama. Goodwine was a four-star out of high school despite his lack of statistics in college. 

“The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more. Im a Gamecock!” Goodwine announced in a statement posted on X. 

South Carolina sophomore linebacker Stone Blanton also took to X to announce his entrance to the transfer portal, where he would ultimately return home to Mississippi. The Gamecocks turned to a transfer from Charlotte, redshirt junior linebacker Demetrius Knight II, to cover this loss.

Knight’s impressive year in Charlotte included 5.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and 1.5 sacks. 

Redshirt freshman cornerback Gerald Kilgore committed to South Carolina, as well, from Tennessee Tech. Kilgore is a familiar face in the Gamecock locker room, as his younger brother is current freshman defensive back Jalon Kilgore. 

“I don’t take the responsibility that (the parents) entrusted on the staff and I lightly of taking care of their sons,” Beamer said. “And that Mr. and Mrs. Kilgore felt confident enough in me as the head coach and us as a program to not just have one son here but to send a second son here is really, really cool and very humbling for me in a lot of ways also.”

Gerald Kilgore had 37 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and five pass breakups in his one season in the secondary. 

The offensive line proved to be the most problematic area for the Gamecocks in the 2023 season, facing up to 12 injured offensive linemen throughout. Reaching into the portal for a solution, the team gained junior offensive lineman Torricelli Simpkins III and offensive tackle Aaryn Parks.

Simpkins joins the Gamecocks from North Carolina Central as the MEAC Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2023. Parks saw sparse time in his four seasons with Oklahoma, but he can provide depth and veteran experience to a young offensive line.

“Let’s Work. Can’t Wait To Get There Later In The Week," Parks said on X.

But the Gamecocks have yet to address all of its offseason woes. South Carolina lacks depth in the quarterback room after two players transferred out at the position.

The quarterback that remains, freshman LaNorris Sellers, put on a show for Gamecock fans, finishing the season with a perfect pass completion percentage and two touchdowns in his debut against Furman.

South Carolina has not earned a quarterback from the portal despite interest shown from a few notable names, such as Texas' second-string Maalik Murphy.

Beamer and the Gamecocks continue to look for new talent to add to the team through a highly active transfer portal and hope to patch the holes left by a disappointing 5-7 season, followed by heartbreaking exits.