Let us stipulate that South Carolina did the right thing by not hiring an SEC retread to take over one of the tougher jobs in America’s most challenging college football conference. The incestuous nature of the league is how Will Muschamp got to the Gamecocks (a former Auburn, LSU, and Florida employee, as well as a Georgia grad), and that was a disaster from the jump. And as any smart college football person could have told you, it was never going to work.
But in hiring Shane Beamer South Carolina AD Ray Tanner did something different: He gave the job to the scion of a man that stayed at Virginia Tech for 29 years and won 238 games. Someone that prized loyalty over job-hopping. Someone that built a culture and accepted the lesser bells and whistles in the position where he was. Someone that found a different path to winning by counteracting the pedestrian schematic strategies of the day.
As part of their SEC membership, South Carolina plays Florida, Georgia, and Texas A&M annually, three of the top 10 department budgets in college sports. For them to reach the SEC Championship, in most seasons they’ll likely need to win at minimum two of those games. And while being in the SEC places them 17th in that category, they’re also far behind in terms of national recognition. Added to the disadvantage in recruiting they’ll get locally because states like Florida, Georgia, and Louisiana just naturally have more talent, and it’s a tough gig.
The last four recruiting classes for the Gamecocks were ranked eighth, eighth, seventh, and eighth in the SEC.
South Carolina needs someone that can build a brand, and recognize they’re starting behind the eight-ball in terms of relative opponents. Turning coaches over every year won’t work, but consistency can. Steve Spurrier was 86-49 in 11 years at South Carolina, winning the division once in 2010 before getting mauled by Auburn and Cam Newton in the title game. And at USCe, that can be considered success.
USC was 2-6-1 against the spread in 2020 against FBS teams. They were 4-7 in 2019, and 5-6 in 2018. They weren’t just losing games, they were losing relative to expectations. And that’s why Muschamp was deservedly shown the door. But asking Beamer to come in and immediately start playing for rings isn’t realistic either.
Beamer comes from the offensive side of the ball, and the modified Air Raid schemes of Lincoln Riley should be a part of counter-programming. Georgia runs the ball at any and all opportunities. Texas A&M is usually in the bottom quintile in adjusted pace. Florida likes to throw it, but not at breakneck speed. Going faster than the SEC normally does, and finding a defense as interested in turnovers as stops, might be the sharp path forward here.
And if Shane Beamer can follow Frank Beamer’s model of doing it differently while not decrying the inherent advantages of the teams on his schedule each year, he’ll be on the correct path.