South Carolina Football: How the transfer portal has hurt the Gamecocks this season

South Carolina football mascot Cocky. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina football mascot Cocky. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports /

Shane Beamer and the South Carolina football program have had a disappointing 2023 season. Actually, that’s not true. The Gamecocks, barring a drastic turnaround to end the season, have failed in 2023.

Some of the failure has been bad luck. USC has had a ridiculous amount of injuries to its offensive line and wide receiver units. Nine offensive linemen have missed more than one game with injuries, and two of Carolina’s top-3 wideouts have had more games out of the lineup than it (and all three might miss Saturday’s game against Texas A&M).

Two projected o-line starters (and one more who was believed to be in line to earn a starting job) have played four total plays this season, and several others in the two-deep have missed time. The problem is so bad that walk-on tight ends are playing on the offensive line at practice just so the Gamecocks can run team periods.

Star wide receiver Juice Wells has tried to play multiple times this season but has had to leave each game early. It is unclear if he will play again this season. Slot speedster Ahmrean Brown can’t shake a hamstring issue that’s plagued him since week 1, and breakout star Xavier Legette has played banged-up all year before being knocked out of the Missouri game last week.

However, a lot of this fall’s problems in Columbia have nothing to do with luck.

The Gamecocks have been really bad on defense this season. The pass defense has been among the country’s worst, and outside of one really nice showing against Mississippi State, the run defense hasn’t been much better (though, the Bulldogs gave up on the run and threw for almost 500 yards, instead).

While the offensive line injuries play a big part in this, the South Carolina running game has been abysmal except for some nice performances by D-II transfer Mario Anderson. The roster has just one back that can be trusted consistently, and the line gets no push the majority of the time.

Defensive coordinator Clayton White’s seat is scalding hot, and a few other assistants on both sides of the ball can’t be feeling too comfortable.

One of the biggest issues for the 2023 South Carolina football team, however, came this winter as the offseason transfer portal recruiting results were not good enough. After a strong portal cycle last year that brought Spencer Rattler, Juice Wells, and Nate Adkins to Columbia, the 2023 transfer class has been far less impactful.

This offseason, South Carolina football had some very obvious holes that needed to be filled with players who could contribute right away. Defensive end, running back, tight end, and offensive line were glaring issues, and defensive tackle, linebacker, and cornerback could have used some help, as well.

In the end, the Gamecocks brought in two defensive ends (JT Geer and Drew Tuazama), one running back (Mario Anderson), three tight ends (Trey Knox, Josh Simon, and Nick Elksnis), four offensive linemen (Nick Gargiulo, Jaxon Hughes, Sidney Fugar, and Ni Mansell), one linebacker (Jaron Willis), one wide receiver (Eddie Lewis), and one defensive back (DeAngelo Gibbs).

The ends have been disastrous as Geer has been hurt and Tuazama didn’t arrive until the end of August. Neither has played well in limited action, and the Gamecock pass rush has suffered because of it. The issue was compounded by the loss of freshman Monteque Rhames to a legal issue.

The four offensive linemen (all of whom came from lower levels of football) have not been good. Gargiulo has been the best of the four, but the Yale transfer has had his own share of struggles this season at both left guard and center. Hughes and Fugar have been liabilities in pass protection when they’ve been in the game, and Mansell is out for the season.

Jaron Willis was a project take at linebacker, so he was not ready to help a unit that has really missed Mo Kaba since his ACL injury in the 1st quarter of Game 1.

At receiver, Eddie Lewis has been fine, but he hasn’t gotten as much playing time as one might expect from a 5th-year, all-conference transfer, especially considering the injuries in front of him on the depth chart. He has filled in at punt returner and has struggled, allowing too many punts to bounce, losing field position.

Defensive back DeAngelo Gibbs walked on and was never expected to play. As a seventh-year player who hasn’t really played in over two years, he wasn’t the type of player that could be counted on this season anyway.

The running back has been good, and the tight ends have been fine. Mario Anderson has emerged as the clear starter at running back, but he doesn’t have any help in the backfield right now. Trey Knox and Josh Simon have had a solid year at tight end. Both players have been quality receiving threats when in the game, and Simon has been a steady blocker.

But the fact that all of the other transfer portal takes have failed to help the team this fall? That’s a problem.

That problem is compounded when one considers what the Gamecocks lost in the portal this offseason.

A big reason why the Gamecocks had holes on the roster in the first place was because of players leaving the program through the transfer portal and then USC whiffing on some major portal targets.

At defensive end, former 5-star Jordan Burch left for Oregon, and part-time starter Gilber Edmond ended up at Florida State. Even depth pass rusher Rodricus Fitten transferred out. The Gamecocks replaced them with two summer enrollees who haven’t been able to help the team this year after missing on higher-profile players like FSU defection Derrick McLendon.

Defensive tackle Tank Booker ended up at Arkansas after transferring from Maryland, and after missing on him, the Gamecocks didn’t have a backup plan in the portal at the position.

At running back, former 5-star MarShawn Lloyd transferred to the “other USC,” and the next man up on the depth chart, Rashad Amos, left for Miami (Ohio). The Gamecocks struck out on a couple of big-time backs (most notably Logan Diggs to LSU and Demie Sumo-Karngbaye to Kentucky), but they landed Anderson who has been a pleasant surprise.

Two Tulsa offensive line transfers spurned the Gamecocks for the Auburn Tigers, so Carolina added Hughes and Mansell as walk-ons.

At wide receiver, a position that needs some help now, the Gamecocks were among the suitors for dynamic Michigan State receiver Keon Coleman who ended up at Florida State.

The tight end room recovered well from losing four scholarship players, including two to the portal in Jaheim Bell (Florida State) and Austin Stogner (Oklahoma).

Between the transfer portal and a legal incident, the Gamecocks lost five defensive backs but only brought in Gibbs. Now, the Gamecocks have one of the worst pass defenses in football.

All-in-all, South Carolina football got smacked around in the transfer portal this past offseason, and the 2023 version of the Gamecocks is paying for it on the field.

High school recruiting has gone really well during the Shane Beamer era of South Carolina football, but the Gamecocks must have a better net transfer class this offseason. Players surely will leave the program, but adequate replacements (and even some upgrades) must be brought in, or the 2024 South Carolina football roster will have holes just like the 2023 roster.

light. Related Story. South Carolina Football: 4-star freshman no longer with the program