South Carolina has lost 7 of 8 to Kentucky, yet it’s somehow the SEC East hype team

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All aboard the South Carolina hype train.

Haven’t you heard? The Gamecocks are all the rage of the SEC. Or the SEC East, at least. Shane Beamer is the breakout star as the second-year head coach. Spencer Rattler is the big man on campus as South Carolina’s new quarterback.

“I really got this team upsetting Georgia at home in Columbia,” analyst Takeo Spikes declared on the SEC Network on Tuesday.

“People are talking about us nationally, which is what we want,” said the 45-year-old Beamer during his podium time Tuesday, the second day of the four-day event that is SEC Football Media Days. “There’s more buzz about this football program.”

So much so that some people believe it’s South Carolina — not Kentucky or Tennessee or Florida — who is defending national champion Georgia’s most significant threat in the SEC East.

This despite the fact the Gamecocks haven’t posted a winning SEC record since 2013 when the “Ol’ Ball Coach” Steve Spurrier was the head coach. Or that they have lost seven of their last eight games to Mark Stoops and Kentucky, including a 16-10 loss last season in Columbia.

Yes, but have you seen the viral video Beamer posted Tuesday morning that featured the coach throwing on sunglasses and doing a rap song with his players?

“That was a lot of fun,” Beamer said Tuesday. “We got it in three takes.”

Truth be told, the talk around Gamecock Nation is that Beamer has made South Carolina football fun again. He’s young. He has the bloodlines, being the son of Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer. He’s a terrific recruiter. And he was co-winner of the Steve Spurrier Award given to first-year head coaches along with Tennessee’s Josh Heupel.

“Him being like that, it just brings that joy,” Jovaughn Gwyn said. “At the end of the day, he understands we’re all human beings that play a kid’s sport. We’re having fun with it.”

“Love and excitement, that’s the first two words I can think of,” teammate Dakereon Joyner said. “Coach Beamer loves us. He loves being around us.”

After going 2-8 in Will Muschamp’s final season, Beamer guided the Gamecocks to a 7-6 mark last year, including a win over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte. To celebrate the win, Beamer had a five-gallon jar of Duke’s Mayo dumped on his head.

Now Rattler joins the roster. At this point a year ago, the Oklahoma quarterback was being touted as the probable No. 1 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. By midseason, however, Rattler had been benched in favor of Caleb Williams. By season’s end, Rattler had exited Norman to rejoin Beamer, a former Oklahoma assistant.

“I don’t know if there’s pressure,” Beamer said of expectations for Rattler in Columbia. “People forget, Spencer Rattler was the starting quarterback at Oklahoma. He had some pretty high amount of pressure replacing guys by the name of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray, and Jalen Hurts.”

How’d he do? In 2020, Rattler completed 67.5 percent of his passes and threw for 28 touchdowns with seven interceptions. Last year, the Phoenix native completed 74.9 percent of his throws for 11 touchdowns and five picks. He has the physical gifts, he can put it all together.

“Me and Spencer’s lockers are right next to each other,” said Joyner, who has also played quarterback for South Carolina. “He’s a natural-born leader. A great guy. He doesn’t get enough credit his leadership capabilities. He’s a great guy that we all love.”

Said Beamer, “We’ve got to be great around Spencer.”

South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer speaks during the SEC’s media days on Tuesday in Atlanta.
South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer speaks during the SEC’s media days on Tuesday in Atlanta.

How good can South Carolina be? Could the Gamecocks really challenge the Dawgs? Despite the momentum generated in Beamer’s debut season, most are picking Carolina to finish behind Tennessee and, yes, Kentucky in the East. “We’ve got to try to get them back,” Gwyn said on Tuesday of the Oct. 8 game against the Wildcats in Lexington.

Still, South Carolina fans are stoked. The season-ticket renewal rate is the highest it has been in 10 years, reports the head coach. Optimism abounds.

Said Beamer, “We’re just getting started with what we’re doing.”

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