KNOXVILLE (AP) — Two of the Southeastern Conference’s new head coaches will square off when South Carolina visits Tennessee this week.
Shane Beamer will lead the Gamecocks into Knoxville on Saturday to take on Josh Heupel and the Volunteers in a pivotal test for both teams.
Heupel’s Volunteers (3-2, 1-1) demonstrated how explosive his offense can be, putting 62 points on the board in their rout of Missouri. Beamer’s Gamecocks (3-2, 0-2) are also coming off a win, albeit a narrow escape over Troy.
Heupel said the challenge for Tennessee is always going to be how fast they can play and how they play when are playing with a fast pace.
Tennessee had its best offensive performance since Oct. 8, 2016, with 683 total yards at Missouri. The Vols ran for 458 yards, the most on the road in school history. Tennessee hadn’t rushed for that many yards since piling up 513 yards Nov. 10, 1951, against Washington & Lee.
Beamer certainly has taken notice.
“Not sure what issues Tennessee had with the previous staff, but recruiting wasn’t one of them,” said Beamer. “Although, they’ve had some attrition in the transfer portal, they’ve got a lot of great players who are still there.”
Heupel’s plan to bring a fast-paced offense to Tennessee is working. The Vols run 2.89 offensive plays per minute, tied for third in the nation and tied for first with Mississippi among Power Five teams. Utah State and Marshall (2.93 per minute) are the overall leaders.
Since rushing for 254 yards in a season-opening win over Eastern Illinois, South Carolina’s offense hasn’t generated more than 102 yards in any of its next four games. The Gamecocks average 88.5 yards on the ground in that span.
Tennessee run ranks 24th among FBS teams in run defense, yielding 104 yards a game.
“They’re pretty physical up front and they’re going to bring all 11 guys to the ball,” South Carolina quarterback Luke Doty said. “Up front, we’ve got to be ready to deliver strikes, not only in the pass game but the run game as well. We’ve got to be able to establish that early, and I think we’re going to be able to.”
South Carolina safety Jahmar Brown became the latest cautionary tale about making sure to cross the goal line before flipping away the football in celebration. He had recovered a Troy fumble and was cruising untouched into the end zone when he released the ball around the 1 before entering the end zone.
The touchdown would’ve put the Gamecocks up by 13 points but negated. Brown has spent the past few days being ridiculed don social media. ESPN even featured him in its “C’Mon, Man!” segment this week.
“It’s unfortunate that I made that mistake, and that mistake could’ve cost my team,” Brown said. “I felt very terrible about that. But at this point in time, there’s nothing else for me to do but to move on.”
Beamer has fond memories of Tennessee, many of them from getting his Masters’ degree at the school. He served as a graduate assistant under Philip Fulmer with the Vols from 2001-03 and got his degree in sports management there.
The South Carolina coach made relationships that have lasted more than two decades, including working for now Gamecocks offensive line coach Greg Adkins and going to classes with South Carolina offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield.
“Had a great time, made a lot of friends,” Beamer said. “Those are some successful coaches and people, and I’m trying to do my part to not bring them down.”
Tennessee revealed Wednesday that the Vols are breaking out some special uniforms for this game. The Vols will be wearing black jerseys for the first time since Halloween 2009 — also against South Carolina. Instead of the orange pants worn that day, these Vols will wear black pants for the first time in program history.