Gamecocks blend in high-profile transfers

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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.”

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”

Pac-12 looking stronger at top after early-season losses

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When Oregon got throttled by top-ranked Georgia and Utah lost at Florida, it appeared as though the Pac-12 was headed toward another College Football Playoff miss.

One week into the season and two of the conference’s top teams had already failed big early tests.

Flash forward three weeks and it seems the Pac-12 might be in good shape after all.

The Ducks and Utes bounced back with big wins and the top of the conference looks strong, with four teams in the top 15 for the first time since 2016.

It’s still early, but the Pac-12 is putting itself in position to get a team through to the CFP for the first time since Washington in 2016-17.

A look at how the top of the Pac-12 is stacking up headed into the first weekend of October:

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

The No. 6 Trojans (4-0, 2-0 Pac-12) seem to have quickly returned to glory in their first season under Lincoln Riley. The former Oklahoma coach brought quarterback Caleb Williams with him to Southern California and they have thrived through the first four games.

Williams has thrown for 1,054 yards and nine touchdowns, adding 100 yards and two more scores rushing. USC’s defense has been opportunistic, leading the nation with 11 interceptions while tied for the lead with 14 takeaways.

The Trojans survived a scare against scrappy Oregon State over the weekend to start 4-0 for the first time since 2012. USC has to play at Utah on Oct. 15, but avoids Washington and Oregon this season.

UTAH

The 12th-ranked Utes opened the season with a tough road loss at The Swamp in Florida, but have won three straight lopsided games.

Outside of a costly interception late against the Gators, quarterback Cam Rising has been sharp, throwing for 954 yards and 10 TDs. Utah (3-1, 1-0) has a physical defense and is third in the FBS, allowing 132.8 yards passing per game.

The Utes also have a veteran team that won the Pac-12 championship last season. The bad news: tight end Brant Kuithe, their leading receiver, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Utah plays Oregon State this weekend and has tough games against USC and Oregon still on the schedule.

OREGON

The Ducks’ playoff chances took an immediate hit with a 49-3 loss to reigning national champion Georgia in their opener.

No. 13 Oregon (3-1, 1-0) bounced back with a decisive win over a good BYU team and outlasted previously undefeated Washington State 44-41 last week.

The Ducks were no match for the Bulldogs in any aspect – few teams are – but have averaged 51.6 points the past three games. Oregon’s biggest weakness is its pass defense. The Ducks are allowing 72.5% of passes to be completed, third worst in the country.

Oregon’s biggest tests left in the season will come in back to back games against Washington and Utah.

WASHINGTON

The Huskies have made a quick turnaround in their first season under coach Kalen DeBoer.

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been superb now that he’s healthy, throwing for an FBS-best 1,388 yards and 12 TDs with one interception. No. 15 Washington (4-0, 1-0) picked up a solid home win against Michigan State and has 15 sacks this season, including eight against Stanford last week.

The Huskies play their first road game at undefeated UCLA on Saturday and have to face Oregon on Nov. 12.

UCLA

After winning at Colorado for the first time since 2014 last Saturday, the Bruins (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) have their longest winning streak since winning the first eight games in 2005.

UCLA had a hard time getting past South Alabama and opened its Pac-12 schedule with a win against the struggling Buffaloes.

The Bruins will find out how good they are over the next three weeks, a brutal stretch that includes home games against Washington and Utah before heading to Eugene to play the Ducks on Oct. 22.