Gamecock football seeking consistency, playmakers this spring


COLUMBIA - South Carolina's best offensive playmakers are gone, not a promising prospect for an offense that had its share of problems last season.

The Gamecocks were 5-7 and missed the postseason for the first time in coach Shane Beamer's three seasons. The offense ranked 12th in Southeastern Conference scoring and, while quarterback Spencer Rattle r and receiver Xavier Legette fueled the league's fourth-best passing attack, it was dead last in rushing.

The focus this spring? Finding consistency on offense among the inexperienced backups and incoming transfers.

South Carolina offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains told his offense the first day of spring practice earlier this month is the world judges them on three things: "You've got to know what to do, you've got to know how to do it and you've got to go do it under pressure.

"We're still in the phase of learning what to do," he said.

Rattler threw for 6,212 yards with 37 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in his two years since transferring from Oklahoma. Legette caught 71 passes for a school record 1,255 yards last season. Also gone is Antwane "Juice" Wells Jr., who was the team's leading pass catcher in 2022 with 68 receptions for 928 yards. He transferred to Mississippi this offseason.

Leading rusher Mario Anderson left to join Memphis, the second straight season the Gamecocks lost their top runner to the portal after MarShawn Lloyd, who ran for 573 yards in 2022, moved on to Southern Cal.

South Carolina even struggled holding onto new offensive assistants. Beamer brought in James Coley, the ex-Texas A&M staffer, as receivers coach in January, who then turned around a few weeks later for Georgia when an opportunity arose there.

Beamer replaced him with ex-NFL receiver and Division II Limestone head coach Mike Furrey at the end of February, only a couple of weeks before spring practice started.

"It allowed us to go out and hire an even better wide receivers coach in my mind," Beamer said.

Practices have concentrated on those on the field, Beamer said, not those who left.

Newcomers include former Auburn quarterback Robby Ashford, who started 10 games in two years with the Tigers, to go along with highly regarded sophomore LaNorris Sellers, a five-star prospect who learned behind Rattler a season ago.

Sellers, at 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, made three appearances last season. Ashford received no promises about playing time from Beamer, he said, only the chance to compete - just the way he wanted.

Competition "only makes me better, and this (quarterback) room better," he said. "At the end of the day, we always want to get better."

At running back, South Carolina brought in Arkansas' Raheim "Rocket" Sanders, who was an all-SEC runner with 1,443 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2022. Sanders ran for 209 yards in six games a year ago with a lingering knee injury that has kept him out of spring workouts.

Receiving hopes are pinned on Nyck Harbor, a sophomore two-sport athlete now competing with the track team. He was named the SEC freshman of the week in track for winning the 100 meters and anchoring the 400 meter relay team to victory. Harbor's 6-foot-5 frame along with his speed make him a strong favorite as top target for next season.

South Carolina fortified its receiving spot with incoming transfers in Ahmari Huggins-Bruce of Louisville, Gage Larvadain of Miami of Ohio and Jared Brown of Coastal Carolina.

Brown caught 107 passes for 1,529 yards and 10 touchdowns the past two seasons with the Chanticleers.

Luke Doty, South Carolina's former quarterback now working at receiver, likes what he's seen from the newcomers so far.

"When we kick it off in August, it's going to be fun to watch," said Doty, in his fourth season with the Gamecocks. "A lot of explosive plays, a lot of downhill runs, just plays being made everywhere by a lot of different guys."