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Phil Steele Names SEC Team That Will Exceed Expectations

South Carolina football hasn’t had a winning season since 2018. And in 2020, the program notched an all-time poor performance — recording just two wins and finishing second to last in the SEC.

That being said, things may be looking up for the once-great college program.

With an up-and-coming head coach, a talented incoming recruiting class and some solid returning talent, college football insider Phil Steele believes the Gamecocks are in for an unexpectedly improved season in 2021, in their first year under Shane Beamer. The longtime magazine writer has USC finishing fifth place in the SEC East.

“This team has 14 returning starters and the cupboard was not left bare,” Steele wrote, per 247Sports. “This team was gutted by injuries and defections at the end of the year, but have only lost nine players to the portal and most of these were before Beamer took over. The Gamecocks do draw both Texas A&M and Auburn out of the West and naturally Clemson in the non-conference.

“South Carolina figures to be an underdog in eight games this year, but they will improve on last year’s 2-win total and are a stronger team than most folks expect.”

After Will Muschamp was fired following the 2020 season, Shane Beamer, son of legendary head coach Frank Beamer, took over the role. Though this is his first year in a head coaching position, the younger Beamer has two decades of college coaching experience — including four seasons as an assistant for South Carolina in the late 2000s.

While the Gamecocks’ 2021 recruiting class ranks at No. 80, per 247Sports, Beamer has already made some significant headway in the 2022 class. With two 4-stars and 10 3-stars already committed, USC is currently ranked at No. 20.

Five returning South Carolina football players have made Steele’s All-SEC Preseason team: defensive end Kingsley Enagbare (first team), running back Kevin Harris (second), tight end Nick Muse (second), defensive tackle Zacch Pickens (third) and offensive lineman Jovaughn Gwyn (fourth).

“South Carolina has a talented backfield on offense and defensive line on defense,” Steele wrote. “The schedule is not easy, but they will be better than expected.”

[Athlon Sports via 247Sports]

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