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South Carolina and Spencer Rattler look to contend in 2023

South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler and the Gamecocks aim to make a giant leap in 2023 after finishing the 2022 season with an 8-5 overall record.

Rattler, who is approaching his second season at South Carolina, posted 3,026 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns while completing 66.2 percent of his passes in 2022. The former Oklahoma quarterback is embarking on his redshirt senior season, which could be his final year of collegiate football.

The two-time Big-12 champion quarterback was a Heisman hopeful prior to the 2021 season at Oklahoma, but failed to live up to expectations and was benched in favor of former Oklahoma and current Southern California quarterback Caleb Williams, who was the 2022 Heisman trophy winner. At the end of the 2021 season, Rattler announced he was going to bring his talents to South Carolina. Rattler has the ability to extend plays and has solid athleticism, but his decision-making and leadership skills are questionable.

Image featuring South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer and South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler. Image courtesy of South Carolina

The Gamecocks finished the 2022 season on a high note by defeating two College Football Playoff contenders in back-to-back weeks ( vs. No. 5 Tennessee 63-38 and vs. No. 8 Clemson 31-30) thus ending both teams chances at competing in the four-team tournament. Rattler had arguably the best performance of his career against the Volunteers, as he posted 438 passing yards, 6 touchdown tosses while completing 81.1 percent of his passes. Rattler’s full potential has been on display in flashes, he just has to be more consistent heading into 2023 as he aims to build his draft stock.

South Carolina wide receiver Antwane Wells Jr. is returning for his senior season in 2023 after having a prolific 2022 campaign. In 2022, Wells had 928 reception yards along with 68 receptions and named a first-team All-SEC member. Alongside Wells are wideouts Ahmarean Brown (8.2 yards per catch in 2022) and Xavier Legette (had 3 touchdown receptions averaged 9.3 yards per catch in 2022). The Gamecocks head into the season without their leading rusher from last season as running back MarShawn Lloyd (573 rushing yards with a 5.2 yards per carry average) transferred to Southern California. Due to Lloyd’s departure, that leaves former wideout and quarterback converted to running back Dakereon Joyner to take the reins in the backfield.

South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer (15-11 record) is embarking on his third season in Columbia, as he looks to lead the Gamecocks to three consecutive bowl-game appearances. The Gamecocks did not make it on the 2023 preseason AP Top 25 poll (ranked 27th) despite finishing the 2022 campaign at No. 23, respectively. Beamer recently named former Arkansas tight-end coach Dowell Loggains as offensive coordinator after the departure of former South Carolina offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield (’21-’22), who went to Nebraska to be the Cornhusker’s offensive coordinator.

Loggains has a solid track record of being able to get the most out of not only just offenses but quarterbacks as well. The former Arkansas quarterback (’00-’04) has 16 years of NFL coaching experience (’05-’20) and made a mark in the big leagues. Loggains served as the New Yorks Jets offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (’19-’20), as current San Francisco 49ers and former New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had his best statistical season under Loggains. The inconsistent Darnold had career highs in passing yards (3,024), touchdown passes (17) and completion percentage (61.9%) in 2019, respectively.

Loggains also served as the Miami Dolphins’ offensive coordinator in 2018, as he was responsible for leading the Miami rushing attack to eighth overall in yards per carry (4.7), respectively. The former tight-end coach has a knack for uplifting offenses, as he looks to do the same for an offense that converted only 38.8 percent of their third down conversion attempts in 2022.

The Gamecocks defense struggled immensely last season, as they accumulated only 20 sacks which ranked 110th in the nation. Due to the lack of a strong defensive front, it caused the defense to give up a rushing average of 4.9 yards per attempt and nearly 200 rushing yards per game (198). Defensive anchors linebacker Mohamed Kaba and edge rusher Jordan Strachan will make their returns to the field in 2023 after they both went down to injuries in 2022. Kaba and Strachan suffered ACL tears in a game against Arkansas early last season. The defensive front should be stronger with both of them returning.

Sophomore defensive back Nick Emmanwori leads the Gamecock secondary after having a breakout freshman season last year. In 2022, Emmanwori garnered 85 total tackles (led team) and recorded a tackle for loss. The 6-foot-4 safety is accredited for his size and physicality which could be a thorn in any passing attack. The sophomore defensive back earned a spot on the Freshman All-SEC team due to his stellar freshman year. If the front seven improves, the secondary could garner more turnovers and allows the defensive backs to make plays.

South Carolina opens their 2023 season playing three top 25 teams in the month of September alone as they battle No. 21 North Carolina in the season opener (Sept 2), No. 1 Georgia (Sept. 16) and No. 12 Tennessee (Sept. 30). The Gamecocks have a competitive season ahead of them, but if Rattler can be persistent more often than not and with Loggains orchestrating the offense, South Carolina could finish 2023 with another postseason appearance and maybe steal a few games like last year.

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