Shane Beamer will begin his first season as a college head coach when his South Carolina football team takes on Eastern Illinois next Saturday. Beamer is hoping to get that season started off with a win over the Panthers as the program looks to bounce back from the tail end of the Will Muschamp era.
The Gamecocks should be able to win that first game, and they’ll have their opportunities to make their mark on the SEC as the year treks on, but what will determine a successful performance in 2021?
Outside expectations of the South Carolina football program aren’t high, with most projecting the team to finish near the bottom of the SEC standings. Vegas shares that opinion as oddsmakers have placed the Gamecocks’ 2021 win total at just 3.5 games. It doesn’t help that the Gamecocks have one of the nation’s toughest slates in the upcoming year. With that being said, would you consider a four- or five-win season as a success? Does the team need to reach bowl eligibility to show progress?
Determining success of South Carolina football
It’s safe to say that the Gamecocks won’t be competing for any conference titles this year, but being competitive in the league is my gauge on the success of the program moving forward. Last year’s group lost its last six games by an average of 25 points a contest. Only one matchup came down to a single possession. It was clear that the staff had lost the team, with a number of Gamecocks opting out of the season’s final games.
To show progress, I don’t think it comes down to wins and losses. I’d like to see how coach Beamer and his new staff can guide the team, how they lead through both highs and lows. Will the team stay focused after a tough loss? Will they fold if the year goes south? That will be the biggest thing for me.
On the field, I want to see offensive progress. The Gamecocks don’t need to be Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, but it would be nice to see South Carolina finish better than 99th in production, which has been the case far too many times over the last few years. The team was one of the nation’s 35 worst scoring offenses for four of Muschamp’s five seasons. Beamer has promised creativity and the expectation that he’ll bring concepts from both the Carolina Panthers and Oklahoma Sooners to Columbia. Let’s see something exciting with the offensive group.
The last thing I’d like to see is to at least be competitive with the big boys. South Carolina was just 3-17 against top 25 foes under Will Muschamp. That included an 0-4 mark versus archrival Clemson, with no game being decided by less than three scores. Going back to offense, the Gamecocks scored more than 10 points in just one of those meetings. Muschamp was able to knock off Georgia once and Florida once, but he was largely unsuccessful (and uncompetitive) against top competition.
Can Shane Beamer flip that script? The talent is there, even if there are some holes on the roster. The Gamecocks return a potent rushing attack, a solid tight end group, a veteran offensive line, and a strong defensive front. If South Carolina can keep games close against the tough opponents, and maybe knock off a team or two, it would go a long way towards showing that the program is capable and moving in the right direction. That would be great for both morale of the fanbase and recruiting.
Don’t judge this year strictly by wins and losses. Look deeper at the team as a whole to get a better look at where the program is headed.