South Carolina dropped its first game under Shane Beamer on Saturday.
Falling to No. 2 Georgia 40-13, USC was largely outplayed and overmatched in its first SEC contest of Beamer’s tenure in Columbia.
Here are five things we learned in the Gamecocks’ trip to Athens:
Josh Vann can be a legitimate No. 1 wideout
The story is belabored at this point, but let’s repeat it briefly.
Josh Vann came to South Carolina as a highly touted four-star recruit in the class of 2018, but hadn’t lived up to his billing since arriving in Columbia. Through three games he’s done that and more.
With his 128-yard receiving effort Saturday, Vann surpassed his season totals from each of the last three years. His single-night output was also better than his year-long numbers in each of 2018, 2019 and 2020.
South Carolina struggled to move the ball against a Georgia defense that ranked No. 1 in the country entering the weekend. Vann, though, provided a spark as all three of his receptions went for 30 or more yards.
USC’s offensive line has some issues
Before we dive too far into this, let’s point out the obvious: Georgia’s defensive line is really, really good.
Now that we’ve knocked that out — South Carolina is starting to see some problems on its offensive line. We wrote in depth about this last week, but the Gamecocks again struggled to keep men in front of them during Saturday’s romp.
Quarterback Luke Doty — who replaced Zeb Noland when he went down with a hand injury — had to run for his life just about every time he stepped back to pass. The offensive line also accounted for five of the Gamecocks’ seven offensive penalties.
South Carolina won’t see a pass rush like Georgia’s every week, but the Gamecocks didn’t exactly inspire confidence heading into a date with Kentucky at Williams-Brice Stadium next week.
Jaylan Foster is a ballhawk
We probably should’ve paid closer attention to this after the Eastern Illinois game, but defensive back Jaylan Foster has the makings of a real playmaker on the back end.
Foster’s three interceptions — two of which came Saturday — stick him toward the top of the Southeastern Conference stat leaders after three weeks of games.
South Carolina was predicted to be thin on the back end this year, but Foster has quickly cemented himself as someone who can go make a play for defensive coordinator Clayton White’s unit.
Luke Doty is probably QB1 moving forward
Beamer said after the game that his staff doesn’t think Noland’s hand is broken, thought it was too early to tell. Assuming Noland can’t go, there’s an easy answer at quarterback.
Doty finished his night 13 of 26 for 153 yards, a touchdown and an interception, though it’s hard to fully grade the performance given that he was thrown to the fire in place of Noland.
The former four-star recruit flashed the athleticism that made him so sought-after in the class of 2020, while his arm strength was more impressive than some prognosticated in the preseason.
Doty was far from perfect Saturday, but it’s fair to assume he’ll be the first man out under center next week against the Wildcats.
Shane Beamer’s program is still in rebuild mode
Starting out 2-0 was as good as anyone in Columbia could’ve hoped for.
South Carolina throttled Eastern Illinois and survived a gritty effort from East Carolina in Greenville, North Carolina in Week 2. Losing to Georgia the way USC did on Saturday, though, gives a glimpse at the hill there is to climb.
Beamer inherited a team that hasn’t won more than four games since the 2018 season. Combine that with the turnover on the roster and on the staff, and it’s going to take time to get things sorted out.
South Carolina is continuing to rebuild. That starts against Kentucky next week.
South Carolina 2021 football schedule
Home games in bold
Sept. 4: South Carolina 46, Eastern Illinois 0
Sept. 11: South Carolina 20, East Carolina 17
Sept. 18 Georgia 40, South Carolina 13
Sept. 25 vs. Kentucky, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
Oct. 2 vs. Troy
Oct. 9 at Tennessee
Oct. 16 vs. Vanderbilt
Oct. 23 at Texas A&M
Nov. 6 vs. Florida
Nov. 13 at Missouri
Nov. 20 vs. Auburn
Nov. 27 vs Clemson