As a Gamecock fan, I am cautiously optimistic. We deserve this after the abrupt Spurrier resignation, the non-sensical Will Muschamp hire, and subsequent extension. Shane Beamer took the job heading into the 2021 season and outperformed all expectations for this program. With a preseason win total of 3.5, South Carolina won 7 games, including a dominating bowl performance against North Carolina in the Duke Mayo Bowl.
Following a miracle-type season led by current graduate assistant Zeb Noland, the Gamecocks took advantage of the transfer portal, adding one-time elite QB prospect Spencer Rattler, TE Austin Stogner, dynamic WR duo Corey Rucker and Antwane Wells Jr., and upside running backs Christian Beal-Smith and Lovasea Carroll. This doesn’t even touch on their defensive acquisitions led by Central Michigan Safety Devonni Reed, an incredibly productive player for the Chippewas. Currently, the Gamecocks rank sixth in Transfer Portal Team Rankings on 247 Sports.
With the new additions, South Carolina’s latest depth chart and position projections are in for a significant shakeup but with the potential to perform well offensively.
Marcus Satterfield and What to Expect in 2022
I’ve been vocal about my displeasure with the play calling from offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield in 2021. Timid at the time and not nearly as aggressive as he should have been, Satterfield will have the opportunity to prove he belongs as an SEC OC in 2022. The personnel will no longer be an excuse with the elite transfer portal class and high-end options at skill positions in this offense.
It’s hard to create reasonable expectations for this offense and how it will operate. Satterfield has been an OC for four seasons, three under Matt Rhule at Temple and one under Shane Beamer last season. Historically, Satterfield has failed to produce explosive offenses, evidenced by his 0.112 Offensive EPA per Play and a Pass EPA Per Play of 0.197. Both metrics, weighted, are below average, but in three of four seasons as an OC, he’s been slightly above average, including a 0.27 Pass EPA per play in 2021.
The Neutral Game Script Pass Rate is the best indicator of passing production and willingness to throw the ball. This removes garbage time situations to evaluate a coordinator’s tendencies in normal situations (generally first and second down as well). Satterfield has been historically hit or miss in this metric as well. A 44.8% neutral game script pass rate in his fourth season is slightly above average, but when he had a competent quarterback (P.J. Walker at Temple), he posted a 53% neutral game script pass rate. Given the relatively small sample of Satterfield as an OC, it’s hard to entirely dismiss the possibility that the addition of Rattler moves Satterfield towards a higher pass rate than we’ve seen in most seasons.
One thing to keep in mind is that Beamer was an Assistant Head Coach under Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, so he’s seen the high pass rate, high-efficiency type offense pay off. I wouldn’t be surprised, given the transfers this offseason, Beamer pushes a heavier pass rate despite the more conservative Satterfield. Overall, I’m open to the idea that we see an offense more reminiscent of Oklahoma’s than one that focuses on the run game.
This is Spencer Rattler’s job, and there’s no question. After getting acquainted with him at Oklahoma, Beamer made Rattler a priority target and bet on Rattler’s raw talent and a step forward in maturity. After what can only be described as a disastrous season on Netflix Show “QB1”, Rattler’s reputation was shot as a selfish player who failed to take responsibility for anything. There were legitimate questions.
Fast forward to 2022. Rattler is out of Norman and to Columbia. Despite my primal need to defend the Gamecocks, they are a step down from the Sooners. This is truly a humbling experience for last years’ preseason Heisman favorite. By all accounts, Rattler has taken a step forward in maturity, understanding the reality of his current situation. In fantasy, this gives us hope that he can rebound his stock and potentially creep into the first round of the 2023 draft next season. I think this can be a more impressive passing offense, so I like Rattler more than most.
Spencer Rattler Through 2 Seasons as a Starter
|Year||AYA||QBR||Big Time Throw (%)||Accuracy %|
|2021||7.9 (53rd)||71.6 (79th)||1.5%||78.3%|
|2020||10.3 (96th)||81.2 (92nd)||9.1%||80.1%|
Rattler has upside, based on his 2020 season in which he posted 90+ percentile numbers in both Adjusted Yards Per Attempt and Quarterback Rating. We know what the ceiling looks like. The one-time Heisman favorite could post a good season both in college fantasy and en route to a potential 2023 first-round draft selection. Again, this is a longshot given the circumstances leading to where we currently stand, but I’m OK betting on raw talent and a potential flashback to 2020.
This is the position most up for grabs this season. With Kevin Harris and ZaQuandre White headed to the NFL, they vacated 67.4% of RB touches heading into this season. The expected RB1 is 2020 4-Star MarShawn Lloyd. One of the best RB recruits in South Carolina history, at least going back to Marcus Lattimore; the expectations were sky-high for Lloyd. After suffering an ACL tear, he has yet to rebound into an efficient player but did post 64-228-1 for 3.6 YPC. I expect a 1A type role for Lloyd this season which should give him a chance to rebound his devy value, but ultimately, it will be closer to a committee.
Lloyd should be the first backup in this rotation, but the second back is likely undersized speedster JuJu McDowell. McDowell was incredibly efficient (compared to teammates) as a true freshman, with 4.8 YPC despite having only 61 total touches and 15 kick returns. Despite his diminutive stature at 5’9” and 179 lbs, the staff wants McDowell involved with the ball in space. Given his size, he’ll never operate as a true RB1, but he will eat into touches simply due to his dynamism in multiple phases of the game.
After McDowell, the expectation should be a true committee. Wake Forest transfer Christian Beal-Smith should be one of the first players up, especially on first and second downs. Although he checks in at 200 lbs., Beal-Smith primarily operated in an early-down role for the Demon Deacons and should play a similar role to likely lead back Lloyd. Given that Beamer reached out and added Beal-Smith, I wouldn’t be surprised if he garnered a larger role as the season went on. Beamer has gone out of his way to praise his special teamwork, indicating his largest role may not be on offense, at least initially. I like the veteran presence he brings, but I’m pumping the breaks.
For the rest of the RB room, I expect Rashod Amos, a 2020 3-star recruit, to play a role this year. I’m biased because I like Amos, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he operated in an RB3 role this season. Unfortunately, not enough fantasy upside. The other player I expect to play a role is transfer RB Lovasea Carroll. Carroll, who initially flipped to Georgia from South Carolina, was put on defense but ultimately transferred from the Bulldogs to South Carolina to play his preferred position. Given the news from spring, he’s unlikely to see major playing time.
Ultimately, this isn’t a position to target in C2C or devy formats.
Finally, the position that everyone has come for. The incumbent in this room is 2021’s leading receiver Josh Vann. Heading into his fifth season, Vann posted a 25.3% weighted dominator rating alongside a 1.89 Yards Per Team Pass Attempt. In a vacuum, both numbers point to his substantial role in the receiving game, which is why he’s the first player up in the preview. Last season, South Carolina’s receiving room was poor at best and downright abysmal at worst. I’m skeptical of Vann this season due to the talent added at this position through the portal. Vann will still lineup as an outside starter, but the fifth-year player is a fade for me.
The first transfer at this position was James Madison’s Antwane Wells Jr. As a redshirt freshman in 2021, Wells posted 83-1,250-15. Given his requisite size (6’1” 200lbs), I think he has legit potential despite the FCS to SEC jump. A notable big-play threat, evidenced by his 15.1 yards per catch, Wells should line up as a starter for the Gamecocks this season. Additionally, early returns from camp are incredibly positive. Cornerback Darius Rush via 247 Sports commended his playmaking skills recently, noting, “He’s got great speed to him, a little bit of physicality to him. Great route runner. Great at the point of attack, catching the ball. Great after the catch. I think he’s going to be a very explosive person, in my opinion.” In my opinion, this is precisely how his tape plays out—explosive, speedy, and great size.
The second transfer, an incredibly productive player in his own right, is Arkansas State receiver Corey Rucker. As a second-year player, Rucker again impressed with a 24% weighted dominator despite playing with underwhelming quarterback James Blackmon last season. Rucker, who entered the portal with a 0.88 rating, was slightly behind Antwane Wells Jr.’s 0.90 rating from 247. I like Rucker and believe he’s a good WR, given his production. However, I think it’s a better football move for this offense than one for Rucker himself. Likely slotting in as the WR3 in terms of target share, the most likely scenario is Rucker playing the role of a spoiler than a productive fantasy option this season.
Outside of those three, I don’t have much interest in taking shots at this position for the upcoming season. The likely rotation behind the three mentioned above includes E.J. Jenkins, a converted TE who transferred last season. A 6’7” receiver, Jenkins could operate as a situational red zone threat but doesn’t have the athleticism to be a productive receiver at the SEC level. Duke Mayo Bowl MVP Dakereon Joyner returns in a receiving role despite flashing at QB at times. Joyner has been used in a gadget fashion, which I would expect for 2022. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ahmarean Brown, a 2020 transfer from Georgia Tech who could operate in a field-stretching role but will only see a handful of snaps per game.
For now, the three starters are clearly defined, but the upside for a WR1, even in a potentially pass-heavy offense, has been diminished given the new addition of Rucker. I expect potential blow-up weeks for certain players, but unless I am in a best-ball league, I’ll likely avoid all three if I’m expecting CFF production. For Devy and C2C, I’m still willing to draft Wells Jr. given the upside, but I’m lower than I was a month ago. For long-term upside, Landon Sampson, a four-star receiver from Southlake Carrol, is worth a dart throw in drafts.
As some who prides themselves in humility and being humble, I would never victory lap being early on Jaheim Bell despite telling everyone to pick him up in October last season. That would be poor taste if I went on and on about highlighting his explosiveness before anyone talked about him, and he was free on C2C waivers. Despite being humble, I do think Bell has been a huge riser in C2C and devy leagues. An exceptional athlete, Bell posted 30-497-5, an incredibly efficient stat line for a TE. Bell is the player I’m pushing my chips in on despite the addition of Austin Stogner. Bell’s 1.38 Yards Per Team Pass Attempt and 19.8% weighted dominator are incredibly impressive metrics for a tight end. Expect Bell to move around the formation based on spring reports, including lining up as a running back in a Deebo 2.0 role. The upside could be massive.
With Bell, the real question is his next level upside. He needs to add substantial weight at 6’3”, 230 lbs. to be an NFL player. I love the opportunity Bell has this year and think he has some role at the next level just given elite athleticism, but with his TE9 and TE7 ranking in C2C and devy drafts, respectively, it’s crucial to at minimum acknowledge the risks with his profile. I like Bell’s profile and his potential for 2022 production, but at this point, the cart may be slightly ahead of the horse.
One of the key transfer portal additions for the Gamecocks was TE Austin Stogner from Oklahoma. A package deal with Rattler, Stogner was impressive in his second season during Rattler’s ascent. The expectation for Stronger is operating in a true TE role, including lining up inline. In 2021, Stogner lined up inline 47.7% of the time, a number that should be higher given the multi-purpose role the Gamecocks expect Bell to play. In fantasy, Stogner falls victim to the crowded receiver room but should still operate as a safety blanket for Rattler.
Ultimately, for fantasy upside, the best bet is Bell. However, Stogner should still play a substantial role in the passing game. He is likely to be more valuable in a true football sense for the Gamecock, while Bell will be the higher upside fantasy option of the two.
Like I said in the beginning, I’m cautiously optimistic. I think this offense can outperform expectations in 2022 with the pieces brought in. However, given the sheer volume of offensive weapons, I expect the Gamecocks to be a better college team than a fantasy team. This team has fun C2C and Devy options, but 2022 is cloudly.