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Gamecocks blend in high-profile transfers

south carolina football

South Carolina coach Shane Beamer won’t ever turn down someone who can improve his team. He believes he’s added plenty of those players this spring.

The Gamecocks wrapped up spring workouts with the Garnet and Black game on Saturday night. Former Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, a Heisman Trophy favorite before last season, completed 8 of 10 passes for 79 yards. Wake Forest’s leading rusher the past two seasons, Christian Beal-Smith, ran for 18 yards and the scrimmage’s only rushing touchdown.

Antwane Wells Jr., a record-setting receiver at James Madison, caught three passes for 31 yards.

Ex-North Carolina State defensive end Terrell Dawkins led all defenders with 2 1/2 tackles for loss.

“I’ll continue to say it for a long, long time,” Beamer said. “We’re about competition. The more we can create competition at certain positions, the better.”

Especially on offense, where Beamer hopes to transform a group ranked next to last in yards and points per game in the Southeastern Conference last season.

Beamer and his staff worked the transfer portal to find players for the next step forward after going 7-6 with a bowl win in his head coaching debut. This year, that begins with Rattler, a five-star prospect out of high school who excelled with the Sooners before losing his job in midseason last fall.

Rattler’s past and future teammate, tight end Austin Stogner - he’s not expected on campus until later this spring - should combo up again with the quarterback.

Beal-Smith ran for 1,336 yards and 12 touchdowns the past two seasons. Wells set single-season records for receiving yards and touchdowns a year ago for James Madison.

“We’re really deep in our skill positions,” Rattler said Saturday night. “So that makes my job easier.”

The transfer boost is not all offense. Dawkins had 4 1/2 sacks as a freshman for the Wolfpack two years ago before injuries slowed him.

Most recently, South Carolina got a commitment from coveted Arkansas State wideout Corey Rucker, who had 59 catches for 826 yards and nine touchdowns.

Offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield got the brunt of blame from fans for South Carolina’s problems moving the ball. He’s excited the newcomers have shown leadership along with skill this spring.

Satterfield, also quarterbacks coach, wasn’t sure what to expect from Rattler. He’s found a willing pupil and avid learner - “He’s an elite notetaker,” the coach said - who remembers everything he’s told and shows it on the field.

Rattler’s “personality and competitiveness just keeps rubbing off on the offense,” Satterfield said. “He gives our guys some confidence to go out there and succeed.”

Beal-Smith sees a hunger to improve among his new teammates that reminds him of Wake Forest, which went from 4-5 in 2020 to 11-3 and an ACC Atlantic Division title this past year.

“Good to great,” was the Demon Deacons slogan a season ago. Beal-Smith said that fits the Gamecocks, too.

“A lot of potential,” he said. “We have to build a tight team chemistry, knowing that we can rely on somebody next to us.”

Satterfield said Beal-Smith’s addition (they call him CBS for short) has been a boost for a running back room that lost its two leading rushers in Kevin Harris and ZaQuandre White to the NFL draft.

Beal-Smith has shown leadership and direction to help the Gamecocks younger backs, Satterfield said.

“We’re all tight, all close,” Beal-Smith said. “We’re not going to let each other fail.”

That’s the attitude Beamer, in his second season as coach, wants from everyone he adds, be it as a transfer or right out of high school.

Rattler said he’s learned more about the game in a few months at South Carolina than at any point of his career, including his three, largely successful years with the Sooners. Bigger things are ahead after a successful spring.

“I just feel like we’re way more educated on the offense now,” Rattler said. “Coaches, I feel, trust us more with what we see.”