Sports

‘Mr. Football’ Hopes To Improve South Carolina’s Gridiron Destiny

Gamecocks get some help up front …

The future of football at the University of South Carolina is very much up in the air. Head coach Shane Beamer‘s third season in Columbia began with unbridled promise – only to come crashing down like a proverbial lead zeppelin.

Picked to finish fourth in the SEC East, South Carolina ended the era of divisional play at No. 6 in the standings – missing a bowl and posting a losing record for the first time on Beamer’s watch.

In fairness, the Gamecocks (5-7, 3-5 SEC) played one of America’s toughest schedules this year – and things won’t get any easier in 2024. Their inaugural slate in the “new” SEC includes home games against No. 9 Missouri, No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 13 LSU as well as road tilts against No. 4 Alabama, No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 22 Clemson.

That’s definitional brutality, people …

Hoping to give the program a huge lift as it seeks to reorient its trajectory? Mr. Football.

Josiah Thompson of Dillon, S.C. won the Palmetto State’s most prestigious high school honor this week, becoming only the second offensive lineman (and 12th Gamecock commitment) to garner the honor. Thompson is the No. 65 overall recruit in America, according to ESPN – but On3 has him listed at No. 8 overall while 247Sports has him ranked No. 40.

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Standing at 6-foot-7 and weighing in at 290 pounds, Thompson is expected to be a force at offensive tackle – anchoring the South Carolina offensive line of the future. After committing to Beamer’s program back in April of 2023, he wowed scouts by grading out at 94 percent while averaging six pancake blocks per game during his senior season at Dillon High School.

Thompson isn’t the only high-profile offensive line recruit headed to Columbia next year. Dorchester’s Kam Pringle is another top prospect who chose to stay home – committing to Beamer’s program back in January. At 6-foot-8, 335 pounds, Pringle is rated No. 38 according to ESPN and No. 173 according to 247Sports.

South Carolina desperately needs help on the offensive line. The Gamecocks allowed 41 sacks in 2023, which was tied for second-worst in the SEC and ninth-worst in the entire country.

The Gamecocks top recruit overall is on the defensive side of the ball: Edge rusher Dylan Stewart. The Washington, D.C. native committed to South Carolina in August, and is expected to dramatically improve a defensive line that recorded only 21 sacks in 2023 (tied for second-worst in the SEC and eleventh-worst nationally). Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing in at 245 pounds, Stewart is ranked as a top twenty recruit by every service and is only the second consensus five-star recruit Beamer has landed.

Overall, South Carolina’s 2024 class is currently ranked No. 19 by 247Sports and On3 and No. 17 by ESPN.

Obviously, landing “Mr. Football” has not been a recipe for sustained success. The Gamecocks have successfully recruited five of the last seven winners, although last year’s recipient of the award – Xzavier McLeod – didn’t make it through his first season at South Carolina and is currently in the transfer portal.

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SOUTH CAROLINA ‘MR. FOOTBALL’ WINNERS

1995 — Jermale Kelley, WR, Berea, South Carolina
1996 — Kyle Young, OL, Daniel, Clemson
1997 — Chris Hope, DB, Rock Hill, Florida State
1998 — Derek Watson, RB, Palmetto, South Carolina
1999 — Mark Logan, QB, Greenwood, Georgia Tech
2000 — Roscoe Crosby, WR, Union, Clemson
2001 — Moe Thompson, DE, Stratford, South Carolina
2002 — Eric McCollom, QB, Camden, Iowa
2003 — Trey Elder, QB, Byrnes, Appalachian State
2004 — J.D. Melton, QB, Myrtle Beach, Navy
2005 — Prince Miller, DB, Byrnes, Georgia
2006 — Malcolm Long, QB, Gaffney, South Carolina State
2007 — Richard Mounce, QB, Blythewood, Charleston Southern
2008 — Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Pointe, South Carolina
2009 — Marcus Lattimore, RB, Byrnes, South Carolina
2010 — Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Pointe, South Carolina
2011 —Shaq Roland, WR, Lexington, South Carolina

2012 —Tramel Terry, WR, Goose Creek, Georgia
2013 —Jacob Park, QB, Stratford, Georgia
2014 — Matthew Colburn, RB, Dutch Fork, Wake Forest
2015 — Tavien Feaster, RB, Spartanburg, Clemson
2016 — Gage Moloney, QB, Northwestern, James Madison
2017 — Dakereon Joyner, QB, Fort Dorchester, South Carolina
2018 — Zacch Pickens, DE, T.L. Hanna, South Carolina
2019 — Luke Doty, QB, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

2020 — Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, DT, Gaffney, Georgia
2021 — Jaylen Sneed, LB, Hilton Head Island, Notre Dame
2022 — Xzavier McLeod, DL, Camden, South Carolina
2023 — Josiah Thomson, OL, Dillon, South Carolina

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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