By PETE IACOBELLI
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina coach Shane Beamer can’t look at his phone these days without worrying if it’s bad news.
Player transfers, de-commitment by recruits and offensive assistants Beamer hired opting to leave for a Southeastern Conference rival is not the smooth transition the first-time head coach had hoped he would enjoy.
“When I got hired, I didn’t want to lose anyone,” Beamer said, before adding, “that’s just part of it.”
Still, it’s not easy to endure even for a team that’s gone 6-16 the past two seasons and fired previous coach Will Muschamp with three games remaining last November.
The team’s leading tackler, linebacker Ernest Jones, declared for the NFL draft. Second-leading tackler defensive back Jammie Robinson and lineman Kier Thomas, second on the team with three sacks, are both transferring to Florida State.
Quarterbacks Collin Hill and Ryan Hilinski, who combined to start 19 of the last 22 games for South Carolina, have both said they won’t be back next year. That leaves rising sophomore Luke Doty, who started the final contests (both losses), as the only passer with college experience.
“Guys are looking for better opportunities,” Beamer said. “I understand the guys that left here, they did not come to South Carolina to play for me. They came to play for another coach and I knew when I got hired that was a possibility.”
South Carolina ranks last in the SEC in recruiting for 2021, according to 247Sports.com.
But the defections weren’t limited to players.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who was the team’s interim coach after Muschamp’s dismissal, was retained by Beame r while Will Friend was hired from Tennessee to lead the offensive line.
Within a few days, the two were off to Auburn and its new coach, Bryan Harsin.
Beamer said the moves were simply coaches getting better offers and advancing their careers. Still, it left Beamer questioning what he could’ve done better in those hires.
“I have learned and made some mistakes for sure, and I’m doing my best to not make those same mistakes,” he said.
Beamer brought on Carolina Panthers assistant coach Marcus Satterfield to lead the offense and coach quarterbacks. Satterfield has served under Panthers coach Matt Rhule at Temple and Baylor before going to the NFL for this past season.
Satterfield said the Gamecocks’ staff has “a chip on our shoulder and ready to prove to people that we can do some special things” in Columbia.
Not all the personnel news has been bad for Beamer.
Defensive lineman Kingsley Enagbare, a second-team AP all-SEC selection, announced this week he was returning for his senior season with the Gamecocks. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Enagbare led the team with six sacks this past year.
Enagbare said he wanted to come back in part to perfect his game and “suit up with my brothers and play championship-level football.”
That’s Beamer’s goal, too. He understands, though, that bonds will have to be built day by day. He said he has seen evidence that it’s happening.
The Gamecocks had their initial team meeting Sunday and afterwards one of the team’s top defensive players, who Beamer did identify, texted the coach he wanted to meet.
Beamer immediately thought the worst, “but all he wanted to do was hang out in my office and watch the NFL playoff games,” the coach said.
“I’m not naive enough to think everything’s going to be perfect,” Beamer said. “There are going to be ups and downs, but we’re going to continue to move this thing forward.”
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