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Gamecocks add transfer from Wake Forest as Beamer rebuilds running back roster

Christian Beal-Smith

Christian Beal-Smith led Wake Forest in rushing in each of the past two seasons. Adam Hunger/AP

COLUMBIA — Shane Beamer said it, although he didn’t have to. It was right there for everyone to see.

When South Carolina ran the ball well this season, it won. When the Gamecocks didn’t, they lost.

“We just got to be more consistent,” Beamer said after Clemson’s airtight defense held USC to 43 rushing yards in a 30-0 whitewash to end the regular season.

Indubitably.

The Gamecocks rushed for 284, 149 and 301 yards, respectively, in three of their last five games. They had 57 and 43 in the other two.

It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the first three numbers are totals from wins over Auburn, Florida and North Carolina and the others are from losses to Missouri and Clemson. As maligned as offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield’s schemes were, the last five games seemed to say, “It does work. Just didn’t all the time.” 

“Credit to our offensive staff. All I’ve heard for a month is how awful they are, and what am I doing, not firing people and things like that,” Beamer said after the win over UNC in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl. “I hope that’s a great answer for you, right there. That’s why.”

That game wrapped the season with a pretty ribbon and with seemingly no offensive staff changes forthcoming, it's time to look ahead to 2022. Spencer Rattler transferring from Oklahoma to play quarterback certainly deserves its share of praise and examination, but his presence by itself doesn’t mean the Gamecocks’ offensive woes are automatically cured.

They’ll still have to run the ball, and while Rattler’s ability to run will certainly cause defenses to prepare differently, USC can’t solely depend on that. It will need help, and that has to come from a rebuilt running back room.

The Gamecocks’ top two running backs this season, Kevin Harris and Zaquandre White, are off to the NFL. MarShawn Lloyd, Juju McDowell, Rashad Amos and from the transfer portal, former Wake Forest star Christian Beal-Smith, remain among a sheaf of other walk-ons and scout-team players.

Lloyd had 64 carries for 228 yards and a touchdown this year, sitting out the bowl game with a hamstring injury. It’s been a rocky two years for Lloyd, tearing an ACL in the first week of his first preseason camp and missing the entire 2020 season, then never getting into a groove in 2021.

It remains to be seen if Lloyd can become the running back that was drawing comparisons to Marcus Lattimore when he signed his letter-of-intent. He will at least get a chance now that his chief competition is gone.

Then again, USC recruited another chief competitor for 2022. Beal-Smith led the Demon Deacons in rushing in each of the past two seasons with a combined 1,336 yards. He averaged nearly 5 yards per carry.

At 5-10 and 205 pounds, Beal-Smith replaces Harris with the same type of big-body back that can run through defenders as well as run around them. Lloyd (5-9, 215) was thought to be the same but with better speed.

The other possibilities are McDowell and Amos, but Amos played in three games in 2020 and none this year. McDowell was electrifying with the ball in his hands but his slight stature makes it unlikely he would be an every-down back in the SEC, meaning he’ll be the change-of-pace guy who could dabble at slot receiver.

The Gamecocks needed replacements for the departures, and found them, one from the portal and others from their performances this year (USC signed no running backs in the recruiting class). Beginning in spring practice, they will try to find the consistency to turn a surprisingly good first year under Beamer into a great second.

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.

From Rock Hill, S.C., David Cloninger covers Gamecock sports. He will not rest until he owns every great film and song ever recorded.

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