Everything Shane Beamer said after spring practice number 12

On3 imageby:Chris Clark04/16/24

With the Garnet and Black Game less than a week away, South Carolina head football coach Shane Beamer met with the media for his regularly scheduled press conference.

Following is an edited transcript of his remarks on Tuesday.

Opening statement…

“All right, just got off the field. Another good day out there today. Again, like I’ve said all spring, like the way these guys are working this week, kicks off a big week around town without a doubt, but feel like we’re right in the middle of some awesome weeks. Great energy in the city of Columbia right now because of what’s going on with Gamecock Athletics, obviously coming off a national championship and women’s basketball, the parade on Sunday.

“Don’t know if anybody, was anyone at the concert on Friday night? Brett Young, Sam Hunt, Lily Rose, no country music fans in here? Come on, guys. Well, it was a great show. You missed out if you weren’t there, but had a chance to meet some of those performers before the show, and all they wanted to talk about was SEC football and women’s basketball, whether it be Sam Hunt, Brett Young, Lily Rose, all the artists that were there. So a lot of eyes on Columbia, South Carolina and Gamecock Athletics right now. And then obviously that goes right into this week and what culminates this weekend with the spring game, but it’s going to be a huge weekend around Columbia. Track and field has a meet on Saturday or this weekend that I know we want a lot of people at. Beach volleyball is in town. Baseball obviously had a great weekend in Gainesville last weekend and a huge win over North Carolina last week and a big time series coming up this weekend as well. So there’s just a lot of energy and excitement in town right now. And we certainly want to do our part from a football standpoint on Saturday night. We want to make it a competitive game. That’s what it’ll be.

“We’re going to do a draft on Thursday night, similar to what we did last year. That was popular with our players. And I had a couple of them call me on Sunday wanting to make sure that we were dividing the teams up and that it was going to be a competitive game. And I love that, that we have a bunch of competitors on our team that want to do that. So that’s what we’re going to do. We’ll have the draft on Thursday night. We’re going to meet this afternoon as a staff and kind of talk all the logistics and particulars and coaches and whatnot, but want to make it fun for our guys. They’ve earned it and deserve that. Want to make it competitive and get guys work. And that’s another opportunity for us to get better, but it will be two true teams. You remember last year was a competitive game finished in a tie and the players refused to let the game finish in a tie. So we went to a two point play shootout so we could determine a winner and hope Saturday night will be competitive. Also need it to be an awesome environment in there, as I’ve always said.

“So we’ve got a bunch of recruits coming and I turn on spring games across the country and I see attendance where there might be a hundred people in the stands. And I’m blessed to not work at a place where we have a hundred people in the stands for the spring game. We need a lot. I saw what some of our competitors in the SEC did last weekend and the crowds they had. We’ve got a lot of new faces on our football team that I know our fans are excited to see and want them to be able to get out and see them. And then we also have a lot of returning players that have been around this program for a while now that it’ll be their last spring game and want to send them out in style. So encourage our fans to make a day of it in Columbia, get to all the sporting events, tailgate, have fun, then get over here on Saturday night for the spring football game as well.

“We’re coming off a scrimmage on Saturday as well. Got about 80 plays in, got some really good work. Once again, we made the quarterbacks live for about a quarter of the scrimmage. Did some really good things. Thought those guys being live really accentuated or showed their strengths, being able to run, get themselves out of trouble. Did some good things. Thought we made progress offensively, upfront. So regardless of what the message board reports say based on how the scrimmage went, thought we had a really good day upfront on offense. And with the guys that were in there, we had some guys that were banged up and not everybody scrimmaged, but we got better as a team on Saturday. And like I told the players this morning, love the energy and the competitive spirit that they played with on Saturday.

“The only significant injury to come out of that is Zahbari Sandy tore his ACL, unfortunately. I wouldn’t say non-contact. He was engaged with a receiver that was blocking him and just kind of gave out on him as well. Hate that for him. He was coming off an injury and then got back out there. But like I told him on Saturday night when I talked to him, he’s going to be a really good player for us. He’s still young and he’ll be back as soon as possible, but hate that for Zahbari. But other than that, we came out of the scrimmage fairly injury-free. And then the three good days this week on the practice field, just had one. We got practice on Thursday, practice on Friday, spring game Saturday. So I know it’ll be an awesome weekend.

“And then finally, before opening up for questions, after that, we need to go right into another great week, culminating with the Beamer Ball on Saturday night, April 27th, which is open to anyone that wants to come and tickets still remain. But it’s an awesome event. And if you haven’t been to it, all the money goes towards our football enhancement funds from a Gamecock Club standpoint and all the things that we’re trying to do as a football program. A lot of fun, music, dancing, dinner, out on the game field. So you can actually have basically your own party out on the field of Williams-Brice Stadium. It’s been very popular for two years now. This year is going to be better than ever and bigger than ever. And even bumped into some Clemson fans a week ago that told me they came to the Beamer Ball last year and had an amazing time. So we’re not trying to have Clemson fans take it over, but everyone’s welcome and it’s an awesome time and a lot of fun for anybody that wants to come to that also. So that’s the Beamer Ball on Saturday night,
April 27th, as well. And we have Carolina Calls on Thursday night. Golly, so much going on. I can’t keep up with it all. So yes, from Backstreet’s, again, on Divine Street. So look forward to seeing many of you at Carolina Calls on Thursday night.”

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Could Sandy return this season?

“I would say that’s doubtful. I wouldn’t say no. I mean, if you remember last year, we had an injury in the spring game and we were optimistic that we were going to be able to get him back before the season and we weren’t able to. So hopeful, not optimistic.”

Anyone else who won’t play in the spring game?

“Yeah, I’ll have a better idea really probably tomorrow, there’s some guys that I would say absolutely aren’t, guys that have been out for a while now with injuries. Obviously Rocket, we’ve said all along, Juju, those guys, we’ll see. We got some guys that were, got back out there today for the first time. We got some guys that didn’t do anything today, but we’re hopeful we’ll be able to do something on Thursday. So no one that I say right now, other than the guys that have already been announced as long-term, there’s no one new, but I’ll have a better idea once we sit down as a staff and kind of see where guys are as we go into the rest of the week.

Transfer portal priorities…

“Yeah, I think always with the portal being open, you have to look at how you can make your team better. And that’s my job as the head coach. If there’s someone that fits what we’re about on the field and off the field, it’s my job as the head coach to try and get them in here into our program. We’re like every program and every coach in that, every position, we have a target number of guys that we want to have on scholarship. And some positions we’re at that number. Other positions, we’re not. Offensive line right now, based on the target number of guys that we would like to have on scholarship, we’re a couple under. Wide receiver right now, we’re a couple under. There’s some positions that we might be over, but certainly from a depth standpoint, being able to practice, have your full arsenal, receiver and offensive line are two positions. Not that I’m saying we need to get better, but just from a depth standpoint, being able to practice, have a two deep, guys on scholarship, those are positions that just we’re not where we want to be as far as the minimum number of guys that we have on scholarship. Doesn’t mean that we’re in trouble if we don’t add people there, no. But those would be a couple spots that we’re looking at just from a depth standpoint for sure.”

How much stock does he put into spring game performances?

“Yeah, I’d say it’s a combination of both. I’m not one of those guys that looks at the spring game and say it doesn’t matter, because it does. It’s another opportunity to go on the field and compete. It’s an opportunity to get better. And some guys, frankly, they step up when the lights come on, if you will, and they’re gamers. So there’s a 14-practice body of work that obviously we put a whole lot of weight on but we’re not one of those people that just say, hey, let’s just throw something out there entertaining and go home. I mean, we’re competing and we want to win. Each particular team does. And I think there’s something to the fact that when there’s people in the crowd, the lights are on, it’s on television, that some guys step up and elevate their games and really, you notice them. Some guys maybe go the other direction. So I think it’s a great indicator. And it’s so important because, as you guys have heard me say before, we don’t get a preseason game in college football and we don’t get a scrimmage against another team. So for a lot of these guys, it’ll be the biggest crowd they’ve ever played in, maybe. And for all of them, it’ll be the biggest crowd we play in front of until we do it for real against Old Dominion in August. So it’s a great barometer for individuals and how they perform in those situations, without a doubt.”

Is Saturday a chance to decide on the starting QB?

“Yeah, it’s a great question. Whether it be quarterbacks or other positions, they have the ability when the lights come on to really step up and show, you know what, this guy’s a gamer. And the quarterback position is no different. Obviously we’ve been evaluating everything every single day since we started practice in March as well. As far as naming one and where we are, you know, whatever we do, our players know that competition’s a core value, so we will continue to compete at every single position through the summertime, through the month of August pre-season camp. You know, we got guys that are returning starters like Debo Williams, but Debo knows he has to compete every day to continue to be the starting linebacker here at South Carolina. Nick Emmanwori, DQ Smith, Tonka, TJ.

But I think there’s different philosophies. You know, I’ve been in those situations before where you have a quarterback battle, and I mean, I had one at Oklahoma my first year there with a young man by the name of Austin Kendall and a guy that ended up being a pretty good quarterback by the name of Kyler Murray. And we had a quarterback battle that literally went until the middle of August as well. And Lincoln did not name a starting quarterback. I’ve been a part of other places where you name the starting quarterback because you want to have your team be able to rally around that guy kind of in the summertime where they know, okay, he’s the guy going into the season and we need to rally around him. So I think each situation’s different. I think both of those philosophies are valid and it’s just kind of depends on each situation and where we are. Dowell and I haven’t talked about it as far as our time frame wanting to do anything, but like I said, even if there was some sort of announcement after spring practice, like all positions, that position has to continue to prove it and earn it and compete.

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What will the spring game draft look like?

“Yeah, last year, it was awesome. Last year, the team meeting room was the war room and both teams were in there and every single player was on the dry erase board, like the draft board. And the whole team was out there in this room outside the tables. And I was the commissioner. And every time a pick was in, we would make the little thing you hear on ESPN when the pick is in. That little thing would jingle. And then I’d walk up to the podium and announce who it was. We’d come up there and take picks and everything. Like it was draft day and guys ate and had a great time. It was awesome. We had a ton of fun with it. And then last year, once you got picked, you went into the draft room and that got a little chaotic because by the end of the night, you had two different teams and like a hundred players in there trying to like, we need to pick him, pick him, pick him. So we may split it up and make it a little bit more, even more realistic where this may be the draft room for one team, this room, and then next door is the other team. I’m still thinking through those things, how to make it fun for our guys. But they loved it last year, had a great time.

“LaNorris Sellers was the number one pick. And immediately he was like elevated on this pedestal. Well, he was the number one pick because I think Clint was our head coach. He knew that LaNorris was going to play the whole second half as well. And he had earned it, don’t get me wrong. But Spencer was going to play for like a quarter, I think. So you didn’t want to pick Spencer, have him for the first quarter, and then you have no quarterback. So you got to be strategic. But we’ll have people that are doing the pick-in. We’ll have coaches as well, trying to figure out exactly how exactly we’re going to do that, but want to get creative to make it competitive, but have a lot of fun. But last year’s draft was a lot of fun. Our guys enjoyed it. And this year will be no different.”

Does Beamer know which players are in the EA Sports game/is Beamer in it?

“II do not. I’m sorry. I probably should. No, I haven’t heard. So I’m not dodging the question. I have no idea. I haven’t heard that anybody hasn’t. I haven’t heard that anybody has. IIf they do, they haven’t asked me. So no, I hope it would be. That’d be pretty cool. Because I grew up playing the game in high school and college. So I would love that. But no one has asked me for anything. So if they want to, they certainly have my permission. That’d be great.”

Grouping players for the spring game/draft…

“Yeah, you got to do that. You kind of got to give them some direction in there that a team would get carried away. Let’s pick this guy, pick this guy, pick this guy. And eventually you’d have to say, hey, y’all don’t have a snapper. So if we kick a field goal or punt, you have no one that can do that as well. Then you have one team last year that realized the other team hadn’t picked the snapper. So they tried to pick both snappers. So the other team wouldn’t have a snapper as well. So the players certainly got strategic from that standpoint.

But yes, and the other part, there are guys that we’ll talk about that today in our staff meeting, when we meet at four o’clock as a staff, there are certain guys that we want, just from a continuity standpoint, to be able to continue to play together. We’ve been mixing and matching everybody on the offensive line, but we don’t want to go out there with a left tackle that’s never played all spring next to a left guard and a left guard that hasn’t played with a center and a center that hasn’t played with that right guard. It may not be like the same five that have been together all spring, but particularly in the offensive line, let’s have a little bit of continuity as well. So there may be some select head coach picks that this guy has to be with this guy. And if you pick this guy, you are also getting that guy. We’ll get all that ironed out today as well.

Will the coaching staff be divided for the spring game?

“We will. I would imagine Dowell would probably call plays for both teams. That’s what he did last year and Clayton the same, but we’ve got other guys that can, if Dowell chooses not to. But yes, they will be split up on the garnet team and the black team, the coaches.”

What does he tell a freshman going into the atmosphere on Saturday?

“Yeah, one, we talk about just how grateful they should be that they play here at Carolina and they get to play in a spring game with that many people in the stands. And our guys know, we’re so appreciative of our fan base and what makes this place special. And I was at a Gamecock Club event in Lancaster last night, told that crowd that I will I never take for granted that, being able to have Gamecock walk a couple hours before the game or whatever time it is, and being able to have that for a spring game, a walk with fans that come out to see the team, walk to the stadium. It’s more than a lot of teams have for a regular season game. And then to be able to go into that stadium, I never take it for granted and never will. And I don’t want our players to, and I know they won’t.

So one, just how appreciative we are and how cool that is that you get to play at a place like South Carolina. But then two, like once the game starts, you’ve got to be able to block all that out and you still got to go play football. And that we’ll learn a lot about those guys as individuals. And we’ll learn a lot about our team on Saturday night. We want it to be fun. There’s no doubt about it and enjoyable for everyone, but we’re competing too. And some guys, you know, it’s an opportunity to really solidify yourself. You’ve had a good spring, go finish it on Saturday night. You know, you haven’t, maybe you haven’t had the week of practice you want this week, but you get an opportunity on Saturday night to go really show us what you’re about. So there’s a lot that can come out of it. And that’s what we’re telling those guys this week.”

Is a spring game more important to evaluate the team or for recruiting?

“I think certainly from a recruiting standpoint, when you have recruits that come in our stadium on Saturday and they’ll see, you know, tens of thousands of people, that’s a great recruiting tool without a doubt. I think most colleges, a lot of them have already had their spring game, guys that we compete against. I don’t want to say we’re the only show in town, but we’re one of the few spring games this weekend, I think. We’ll have a lot of recruits here because of it. And it’s a great opportunity to show them what an atmosphere is like here in Williams-Brice or here in Columbia, South Carolina. But then I wouldn’t say it’s so much showing us off, it’s me having a chance to learn a little bit more about the team and how they produce and how they perform in environments like that. It’s a great opportunity for our fans to be able to see some of these guys for the first time that I’m really, really excited about. Maybe guys that they heard transferred in or freshmen, but. than the other guys that maybe they’re not as familiar with that I’m really excited about that have had great springs. So it’s wanted to be a reward for our players, obviously, but also an awesome opportunity for our fans to see so many of these new faces. And there’s a lot of new faces that have been working really, really hard since January. This is kind of the culmination of it.”

Has the process of doing exit interviews with players after spring changed over the years?

“It’s obviously a little bit different because you’re having these meetings while the portal is open. There’s no question about it, but we’ve done it every year and have most places I’ve been, but spring game is on Saturday and then Monday morning at 7 a.m. I’ll start meeting with players and I don’t pick like a select few. I meet with every single player on the team. And it’s basically 15 minute increments for three straight days from 7 a.m. until whatever time we finish each day. But in those meetings, and they’re doing the same with the assistant coaches, with their players at the position or their position coach. But those meetings for me are, how’d you feel like the spring went? You know, we’ll talk about academics and finishing up because exams are next week here at Carolina. We’ll talk about kind of where they are, strengths, areas to improve, what they need to work on this summer. We’ll talk about body weight because they’re going to be able to go home a little bit for the month of May. And we don’t need a guy that’s 300 pounds coming back weighing 340. And we don’t need a guy that’s 195 coming back weighing 175. So we’ll talk about body weight goals and what they’re trying to get done this summer.

“And then we’ll be honest with them and tell guys kind of where we see them right now and what their role is. And I don’t want to ever, you know, trust as a core value of this program. And I don’t ever want to lie to someone to keep them around here. I want to be honest and give guys opportunities to go other places and play if they’re not going to get the opportunity here to play because of where they are on the depth charts. We’re just, we’re honest with them. And if there’s an issue, let’s talk about it in those meetings as well. If there’s something that they don’t agree with or something they’re unhappy with, I want them to tell me in that meeting and not a week later when they’ve thought about stuff, you know, but I wouldn’t say it’s really changed.

“It’s kind of been the same format we’ve always used, but it’s certainly a different dynamic because of what’s going on around you. There’s no question about it. I mean, every time I look at my phone, there’s news about someone at some other school and got guys that just transferred to schools in January that are back in the portal three months later as well. So it’s just, it’s a different time. But the meetings are still the same and how we coach these guys are still the same.”

Anyone who’s really helped their cause this spring?

“You know, you’ll see all those running backs, obviously Rocket’s out right now, but Jawarn Howell, DJ Braswell, Oscar Adaway, really good opportunity for those guys, new guys to show what they can do. And they’re excited about that as well. You know, Torricelli Simpkins on the offensive line is a guy that probably wasn’t very heralded when he came here. We knew we were getting a really good player, but I think he’s had a really good spring as well. I know he has. Gerald Kilgore, Jalon’s brother, has done some really good things in that transfer group. You know, where there’s no question, we’re better and we’re more, we’re deeper, we’re better and we’re more athletic at linebacker. And that’s because of who we returned, Debo and Bam, but then being able to add Wendell Gregory, Fred Johnson, Bengally Kamara, and Demetrius Knight. Like that’s a really fun group to watch compete on the practice field. So I could go on and on at all positions that I’m excited about. And that’s the other thing, it’s all these transfers, but it’s so many freshmen. I mean, there’ll be more true freshmen playing in this game Saturday night than what there was last year, because we had a lot of guys.

We started five true freshmen last season throughout the year, two on the offensive line. And of those two offensive linemen, Tro and Tree, they weren’t here for spring practice. So you got guys that last year, Tro and Tree, and Nyck Harbor showed up in the middle of June, went through practice for a couple months, and then they’re playing SEC football games. Now we’ve got essentially our whole freshman class is here, except for three guys. So what an experience for them to be able to, one, go through spring practice, but get to finish it up with a awesome, awesome venue to play in on Saturday night for their development also. So that’ll be better for us going forward. So these freshmen I’m excited about, not a single freshman that I’m looking at and saying, not sure, we might’ve missed on that guy. We’re super excited about this freshman class, super excited about the transfers we brought in, and super excited about the returning players that have all stepped up their game since they came back.

What kind of feedback did Beamer get at the first Welcome Home Tour stop after last season?

“It was a packed house last night at the Catawba Fish Camp, and we got the greatest fans in America that I don’t know if they’ve ever been more excited about Gamecock Athletics.”

Seems like there are some options at cornerback?

“Yeah, there is. Obviously, O’Donnell’s kind of the old guy in that room and returns as a starter. And then Emory Floyd, Vicari, and Judge are doing a great job of competing over there at that other spot. And then really both spots. I mean, they’re all working different spots in there, but Jalewis Solomon will join us in the summertime. So we feel like between O’Donnell, those three guys that are here right now, and Jalewis, that gives you a solid group right there as well, along with the other guys. David Spaulding was working at corner. He’s a little banged up right now, but David’s played corner in his working corner right now. Jace Blackshear is out there doing some good things as well. So you never can have enough cover guys. There’s no question about it, but we like the young group that we have in there right now and excited to watch them continue to get better and compete without a doubt.”

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