The Shane Beamer era begins in earnest Sunday in Columbia.
Sure, a spring game isn’t a tell-all. Beamer and offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield said as much this week, explaining they planned to use limited pieces of their playbooks. But for the first time since Beamer took over for Will Muschamp, fans will get a tangible look at what the 2021 South Carolina football team might be.
Here are three questions that might get answered Saturday:
What will South Carolina’s quarterback rotation be?
It’s no secret Luke Doty is the clubhouse leader for the No. 1 quarterback job. Beamer hasn’t fully anointed Doty as the guy yet, but challenging his quarterback room to actually make things a competition in recent weeks back is enough to surmise it’s the sophomore signal-caller, a wide gap and everyone else.
Herein lies the intrigue.
Throughout spring ball, South Carolina has largely rotated quarterbacks in order of Doty, freshman Colten Gauthier, sophomore walk-on Connor Jordan and FCS transfer Jason Brown. Whether the Gamecocks retain that order Sunday remains to be seen.
Gauthier, a mid-year enrollee out of Bethlehem, Georgia, has garnered wide acclaim for his quick pickup of Satterfield’s offense. But in a system that Satterfield himself conceded Thursday is “a grind” on quarterbacks as far as reading coverages and pre-snap checks, it’s unclear how game-ready Gauthier might be, albeit just three-plus months into his freshman season.
Jordan has been a staple in the quarterback room the past two seasons, though not much has been asked of him. Asking a Perry Orth-esque season out of Jordan in 2021 might mean Beamer’s first season in Columbia has gone off the rails.
And finally, there’s Brown. One of the more intriguing pieces on South Carolina’s roster this spring, Brown threw for more than 3,000 yards and notched 28 touchdowns to just six interceptions in his time at St. Francis (Pennsylvania). The former FCS standout missed some time earlier this spring due to illness and is toward the bottom of the depth chart, if open practices were an indication..
Brown is an intriguing piece if only because he’s jumping from small-college football to the Southeastern Conference, but Sunday might be about the biggest glimpse we get of him in a game this season.
Who is South Carolina going to trot out at defensive back?
Clayton White’s 4-2-5 scheme is still in its early stages of install, but a limited defensive backs room isn’t helping its cause.
With Israel Mukuamu and Jaycee Horn off to the NFL Draft, the Gamecocks have a tall enough task in replacing two legitimate pro prospects — the latter of whom should be a first round pick next week. Throw in a mix unproven pieces and South Carolina is desperately thin on the back end.
Cornerbacks Darius Rush and Cam Smith will be among the most experienced bodies in the secondary, but they’re still settling into more expanded roles. Georgia Southern transfer David Spaulding should also get some run with the top defense, while freshman O’Donnell Fortune figures to be asked to do more in his second season in Columbia.
Senior safety R.J. Roderick, who’s appeared in 31 games and notched 134 career tackles in his time at South Carolina, wore a blue non-contact/injured jersey during the portion of Tuesday’s practice open to reporters. It’s unclear whether he’ll be available Sunday.
White said Thursday he still feels confident in being able to find a balance in his scheme despite limited bodies at defensive back. Sunday should give an early indication as to where things stand there.
Will ZaQuandre White’s hype train continue to roll?
Senior running back ZaQuandre White has received about as much acclaim as any player on the roster this spring. Both Beamer and Satterfield lauded the one-time Florida State signee for his effort this offseason and continued to talk up his play this week.
With former top-50 recruit MarShawn Lloyd continuing to rehab from a torn ACL and junior Kevin Harris being limited in practice of late due to a handful of minor injuries according to Beamer, White has grasped his opportunity with fervor.
Satterfield joked with reporters Thursday that he had White complete a PowerPoint presentation on ball security in a recent offensive team meeting. White came back with a professionally done presentation — slides, photos and all.
Beamer said Tuesday he expects Harris to be healthy enough to receive some touches in Sunday’s spring game. But with Lloyd still working back, White figures to get a featured role assuming he’s opposite Harris despite having just 59 yards and 16 carries to his name.
How to watch South Carolina’s spring football game
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia (15,000 capacity)
Watch: Streaming on SEC Network Plus