South Carolina football: USC adjusting to transfer portal

Wednesday will bring the usual fanfare of a signing day press conference.

Shane Beamer will tout the 2023 class of high-school seniors that South Carolina has signed. He’ll mention a handful of the players he thinks will have long careers in Columbia. He’ll credit his staff for a job well done in locking up what should be a top 20 class nationally.

But amid the optimism, the computers deep inside the Long Family Football Operations Center will continue to monitor potential playmakers who pop up in the transfer portal.

“Transfers, I don’t think you’re ever surprised,” Beamer said last week. “It’s tough out there right now. We’re in a great situation here at Carolina. I look around and there are other schools that have close to 20 players in the portal. You just realize that’s part of it.”

Since 2018, the portal has changed the way college football teams reconstruct their rosters. The addition of the one-time “free” transfer rule — no more sitting out a year — has only exacerbated the number of prospects changing schools from year to year.

South Carolina is no different.

While the structure and rules around the portal have changed over the last five years, Beamer and his staff have become active participants in college football’s new world of free agency.

‘You’re accountable for the roster’

Heading toward the beginning of the early signing period on Wednesday with 18 high-school commitments currently on the books, this year shouldn’t be any different as the Gamecocks look to round out their roster with players who started their careers elsewhere.

“I was always intrigued with college football and I’m thinking to myself, ‘If you go to college football, you’re accountable for the roster,’ ” new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said during his introductory press conference last week. “If you don’t have a good enough roster, that’s your fault. You determine how well and how hard you recruit. And you determine the success you can have and you felt like hey, you have a little bit more ownership in the roster building part of it.”

South Carolina — and most of the sport — have leaned increasingly on the portal for roster construction. Southeastern Conference teams averaged 8.1 incoming transfers per team during the 2022 cycle. Former Texas State head coach Jake Spavital took only transfers in his 2021 class.

Beamer’s squads are currently averaging 10 imports per year in their two full cycles at the helm in Columbia. While the times have changed, it’s a stark contrast to Will Muschamp’s regime, which added seven transfers total between 2018 and 2020.

That’s brought its share of production.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler came to Columbia as one of the more ballyhooed recruits of the modern era following his well-documented exit from Oklahoma. Antwane “Juice” Wells, who started his career at James Madison, was less heralded than Rattler, but finished the 2022 season as the SEC’s second-most prolific receiver behind Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt.

There have been role players, too, who have come through the portal. Central Michigan’s Devonni Reed and Assumption University’s Carlins Platel both filled specific needs in the secondary at safety and nickel, respectively, the past two years.

“Last year, the guys that we brought into this program, there weren’t as many recognizable names as this year,” Beamer said in February. “I don’t know how many people knew who Jason Brown was when we brought him in here last year, or Carlins Patel. People know Spencer Rattler and a lot of these other guys — Terrell Dawkins and Christian Beal-Smith — because of where they’re coming from.”

Building through high school ranks

That South Carolina has added at least nine players through the portal over Beamer’s first two cycles hasn’t been without attrition.

247Sports started tracking transfers in 2019. The Gamecocks have had at least nine players leave the program each year in that span. That number climbed during the transition from Muschamp to Beamer as 13 players left in 2021, while 21 departed in 2022.

South Carolina has already had 10 players enter the portal this cycle, with three public additions for the Gamecocks as of Sunday evening.

In order to combat the growing number of players looking for greener pastures, the NCAA adjusted its rules to allow coaches to replace as many players as they like, so long as they remain under the 85 scholarship cap.

That gives Beamer and South Carolina more flexibility to bring in veteran players, while also piecing together a high school signing class.

“It (recruiting) does feel like it’s changed,” Beamer said in January of the portal. “The recruiting never ends. You’re constantly texting and talking to guys, even when you can’t be on the road recruiting. … I don’t feel like we’ve slowed down a whole lot, but that’s just the nature of the beast. Even in the summertime, when you’re on vacation and all, the recruiting part, you never really turn that off.”

The departures of Jaheim Bell and MarShawn Lloyd brought boisterous suggestions from a vocal minority of fans that the world was crumbling for the Gamecocks. But in a sport in which players have more freedom than ever to leave their current spots for perceived better situations, it’s set to become the norm.

South Carolina, as Beamer noted, won’t shy away from signing high school prospects. After all, he signed 22 in his first full recruiting cycle in 2022 and should end up somewhere around there this year.

Programs will continue to build through the high school ranks, just as they’ll continue to praise their high school signing classes.

Behind the scenes, the portal is still churning.

Gamecocks in the transfer portal

Each player’s landing spot is listed in parentheses

  • EDGE Gilber Edmond — Dec. 15
  • WR Corey Rucker — Dec. 14
  • RB MarShawn Lloyd — Dec. 12
  • DB Tyrese Ross — Dec. 6
  • TE Jaheim Bell — Dec. 5 (Florida State)
  • TE Austin Stogner — Dec. 5 (Oklahoma)
  • LB Darryle Ware — Dec. 5
  • DB Joey Hunter — Dec. 5
  • OL Jordan Davis — Nov. 30
  • DB R.J. Roderick — Oct. 17

Ben Portnoy is The State’s South Carolina Gamecocks football beat writer. He’s a five-time Associated Press Sports Editors award honoree and has earned recognition from the Mississippi Press Association and the National Sports Media Association. Portnoy previously covered Mississippi State for the Columbus Commercial Dispatch and Indiana football for the Journal Gazette in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.

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