Is momentum a myth or a tangible byproduct of success? If it’s the latter, South Carolina is poised for a breakout 2023 college football season.
That’s because the Gamecocks closed out the ’22 regular season with their first back-to-back Top 10 upsets – walloping then-No. 5 Tennessee 63-38 before toppling seventh-ranked Clemson 31-30 on the road.
“Yeah, those were two monumental wins for us,” said Shane Beamer, South Carolina’s fourth-year coach, on the final day of SEC Media Days in Nashville, Tennessee. Perhaps even more impressive after the shocker against Tennessee was that South Carolina fell behind early at Clemson before rallying for victory.
It absolutely has springboarded us in a lot of ways. The momentum that we took from the month of November into recruiting and into 2023.Shane Beamer, South Carolina’s fourth-year coach
The Gamecocks stumbled in their bowl game, losing a high-scoring affair 45-38 to Notre Dame. But remember where the program was before the resurgence: seemingly headed to a 6-6 season after failing to score an offensive touchdown in a 38-6 loss at Florida.
Then South Carolina shook the world and changed its trajectory.
“It absolutely has springboarded us in a lot of ways,” Beamer added. “The momentum that we took from the month of November into recruiting and into 2023.”
Beamer, the 47-year-old son of legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, has accomplished something his dad never did. Nor just about anyone else.
In his last two seasons, he’s defeated three national title-winning coaches: Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and North Carolina’s Mack Brown.
Kiffin: Welcome to the NFL of Schedules
Don’t look now, but Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is turning into a mature voice of reason.
When a reporter asked Kiffin where Ole Miss boosters rank among SEC rivals in the battle to provide legal NIL money for players, Kiffin didn’t bat an eye.
“I am not about to start putting a ranking out on boosters from top to bottom in the conference,” he said, before adding an addendum that drew laughter from the room. “I want too so bad, though.”
Kiffin then pointed toward a recent conversation he had with SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.
“The Commissioner said, ‘Remember, we’ve grown a lot and you don’t have to respond to every question.’ So, I’m going to do that on this situation.”
He did answer a question about the 2024 SEC arrivals of Texas and Oklahoma, however.
Kiffin said after looking at 2024 SEC schedules, he reached out to Texas coach Steve Sarkisian. They go back to their days on the USC staff two decades ago.
“I said, ‘I don’t know any coach that would want to go to the NFL. We are in it now.’ Our schedule is like playing in the NFL in the SEC now, especially adding those two.”
Will the Real UT Please Stand Up?
Tennessee’s Josh Heupel made a splash last year, resurrecting the Volunteers into a legitimate national contender. He made his appearance at SEC Media Days noting that he would return in 44 days, when Tennessee opens the season at Nissan Stadium against Virginia.
Winning has buoyed Heupel’s confidence while sharpening his sense of humor. When asked about Texas joining the league next year, Heupel made points with SEC fans by clearing up any misconceptions about who’s who.
“There’s only one real UT,” he said. “One right shade of orange.”
It is rare that you’re able to keep quarterbacks inside of your quarterback room. The days of having four or five quarterbacks consistently are probably not real anymore.Josh Heupel, Tennessee head coach
Much of Tennessee’s success this fall will hinge on a new starting quarterback. But Tennessee’s situation is so much different than just about any other program facing the same predicament.
Joe Milton III has started games at Tennessee before, and he was a starter at Michigan before transferring to Knoxville.
More important than Milton’s incredible arm strength is his experience with the offense.
“It is rare that you’re able to keep quarterbacks inside of your quarterback room,” Heupel said. “The days of having four or five quarterbacks consistently are probably not real anymore.”
But Heupel said Milton knows Tennessee has his back. And he’s proven his mettle by waiting patiently for his opportunity.
“Those are rare things, and it takes a really mature guy, which Joe has proven to be.”