South Carolina's Shane Beamer is often the most energetic coach in Southeastern Conference football.
This week, he's been the most cautious.
Beamer was in Chattanooga on Tuesday as the featured speaker of the 19th Annual Friends of Scouting Luncheon at the Convention Center, roughly five months after his Gamecocks pulled one of the biggest upsets of the 2022 season by leveling Tennessee 63-38 inside Williams-Brice Stadium. South Carolina knocked Josh Heupel's Volunteers out of the College Football Playoff picture that evening, and not even Beamer's "Tennessee DNA" is preventing him from getting strange stares.
"This is my first time in the Volunteer State since then," Beamer said. "I was in the Knoxville airport earlier this week, and there were a lot of funny looks and some comments on social media as well about me being in Knoxville. I think a lot of this area, and I spent three years (2001-03) in Knoxville as a graduate assistant for Phillip Fulmer and got a master's degree from Tennessee.
"That may pain the Tennessee fans to hear that, but I think a lot of this area, and it's great to be here today."
Tuesday's luncheon benefited the Cherokee Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which serves eight counties in Tennessee and three in Georgia. Beamer was the first sports-related speaker at the event since the late Bobby Bowden in 2020, with Bowden's visit occurring just a week before coronavirus-related shutdowns across the country.
The son of legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said he was in Cub Scouts when his father guided Murray State during the early 1980s.
"I didn't pursue it beyond then but wish I had, and I've got great friends who were," he said. "I have a lot of respect for Scouts and what they're all about."
Beamer took over a ravaged program that won just twice in the COVID-altered 2020 season, and he exceeded expectations right away by using November wins over Florida and Auburn and a Duke's Mayo Bowl downing of North Carolina to achieve a 7-6 record. He received the Steve Spurrier First-Year Coach Award, sharing the honor with Heupel, who had produced a 7-6 record after inheriting a 3-7 team.
A second straight November surge included a 31-30 comeback triumph at rival Clemson, but not before the Gamecocks routed the fifth-ranked Vols behind quarterback Spencer Rattler's 438-yard, six-touchdown performance. South Carolina had entered the Tennessee contest coming off a 38-6 defeat at Florida in which its only points occurred off a fake punt from near midfield.
"I think everybody on the outside was surprised, but I really wasn't," Beamer said. "Now, to sit here and say I thought we were going to win by close to four touchdowns -- I would be lying to you, but we were confident going into that game. We had not been consistent enough on offense going in, but we knew we had it in us. We didn't play well the week before against Florida, but we had wins over Kentucky and Texas A&M, so I knew we had a good team and that it was going to take a really good effort from us to win that game.
"Coach Heupel had a great team last year that played at a high, high level, but I knew that if we played well at quarterback and at defensive back that we would have a chance. Did I think that Spencer Rattler was going to have the game of his life? Probably not, but I wasn't necessarily shocked with how we played."
The Gamecocks were a player on the national stage by eliminating both Tennessee and Clemson from the playoff hunt, but they remained fascinating when their top two leading rushers, MarShawn Lloyd and Jaheim Bell, entered the transfer portal. Lloyd was a top-50 national signee in the 2020 class who missed his freshman year due to injury, while Bell subbed for an injured Lloyd against the Vols and amassed 82 rushing yards and two receiving touchdowns.
Lloyd is now at Southern California and Bell at Florida State.
"Some of those guys who left were a little surprising and a little disappointing, to say the least, but my job is to worry about doing what's best for the South Carolina program," Beamer said. "We had some guys leave our program, but we also had 100-plus guys still in our program and still are, and it's my job to make those guys better. We wish those guys well who left. They did what they felt was best for them, and that's kind of the lay of the land right now.
"Let's be honest, when you enter your name in the transfer portal, you're basically an unrestricted free agent. With NIL out there, there are opportunities for guys to see what they can get. That's not dancing around it. That's exactly what's going on."
The challenge for Beamer, who is 15-11 through two seasons in Columbia, is constant.
South Carolina couldn't quite carry the momentum of its November conquests to the Gator Bowl against Notre Dame, building a 24-10 lead in the second quarter only to fall 45-38, and even Beamer has to laugh at finishing 16th in the 247Sports.com recruiting rankings for the 2023 cycle and possessing the No. 7 crop of commitments so far for 2024.
"People get excited about where we are in the recruiting rankings, but you look and all of our competitors are either around us or above us," he said. "We've done a lot of good things so far, and we're continuing to grow and get better as a program, but you know that the people you're competing against aren't slowing down. It's just about putting your head down and going to work and trying to make our program the best it can be day in and day out.
"You know what's out there, but as a competitor, you love that."
Beamer was an assistant coach under Spurrier in 2010 when South Carolina won its one and only SEC East title, but he has a new friend when it comes to taking on these tasks. Lamont Paris, the former UTC basketball coach, had a taxing first season in Columbia with a program that has just one NCAA tournament trip in nearly two decades.
"I've enjoyed getting to know Lamont," Beamer said. "He's awesome to work with, and we bounce ideas off each other and travel to some Gamecock Club events together. We both realize that we're at a place that has a lot of potential and a lot of opportunity. The city of Columbia is a great place to live. There is great fan support. You're playing in the SEC.
"Dawn Staley has won national championships at South Carolina, and our boss, Ray Tanner, won two national championships as the baseball coach. When Dawn took over that program, nobody thought they would be competing for championships, so there is a blueprint, and we have a great product to sell."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com.