Emotional day for Shane Beamer as South Carolina's coach leads Gamecocks through first spring practice

Eric Boynton
Herald-Journal
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COLUMBIA -- Despite already having done a lot of work since being hired as a head coach for the first time in early December don't underestimate just how much Saturday's first spring practice meant for South Carolina's Shane Beamer.

The 43-year-old had several family members in attendance to help usher in the special morning. His wife, Emily, and their three children were joined by Beamer's parents -- former legendary Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer and mother, Cheryl, -- to watch the Gamecocks work in helmets and shorts or sweatpants on a very chilly and windy morning.

"Surreal," Beamer said of the occasion in a release. "I could hardly sleep last night. I was excited this morning. To walk out here as the head coach at my dream job was really awesome. Obviously there was a task to be done so I was certainly focused on that, but a lot of emotions. Having my family out here was pretty cool as well."

A career resurgence by redshirt senior receiver OrTre Smith, seen here on Saturday's opening of spring practice, would be a huge positive for South Carolina's offense. (Alexander Hicks photo/Spartanburg Herald-Journal)

Redshirt freshman running back MarShawn Lloyd, recovering from a torn ACL suffered on the second day of last year's fall camp, was moving a brisk pace with a brace on his left knee. He joined several rehabbing players who went through a few of the early drill periods before heading to the indoor facility away from the rest of their teammates.

Among those also adjourning inside was redshirt senior receiver OrTre Smith, who opted out prior to last year's opener due to COVID-19 concerns. The 6-foot-4, 227-pound Wando alum who was a finalist for 2016 S.C Mr. Football and a Shrine Bowl selection looked like he's been living in the weight room.

A resurgence by a sculpted Smith would be huge for a team desperate for increased production at wide receiver. After starting 10 games as a freshman when he caught 30 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns, knee problems have limited him to only eight games the past three years when he's made a combined 12 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.

Smith last played Nov. 30, 2019 against Clemson and the last time he caught more than one pass in a game was October 19 of that same year with two against Florida 

South Carolina's defensive line going through drills during Saturday's opening of spring practice (Alexander Hicks/Spartanburg Herald-Journal photo)

Quarterback Jason Brown, a transfer from FCS Saint Francis didn't participate due to illness. Reporters were only allowed to view the stretching session followed by the first three periods of drill work.

"The energy was great," Beamer said. "It was awesome being out here. Having a chance to get back out on the field with the guys and doing what we love was awesome. And honestly I was really impressed with -- and it's a credit to our staff -- the efficiency and organization. It didn't look like we didn't know what we were doing. It was really crisp and the effort was good. Obviously, there's a lot to clean up, but we're excited to be back out here."

Beamer confirmed former USC and NFL Pro Bowl fullback Patrick DiMarco has been added to his staff as a football analyst and assistant director of football relations. DiMarco played tight end at USC from 2007-10, the same four seasons Beamer spent as an assistant under Steve Spurrier, and caught 38 passes for 302 yards and six touchdowns. He played eight NFL seasons for three teams, primarily with Atlanta and Buffalo.

"What he did as a player speaks for itself," Beamer said. "We told our team here's a guy who was somewhat under recruited coming into Carolina. To have the career he had here and then to have a career in the NFL, make (a) Pro Bowl, play in a Super Bowl...he's got a fantastic story.

"He'll be here to help our offense and special teams as an analyst and assist (director of football relations) Connor Shaw and (executive director of character and player development) Derrick Moore in their roles. He can't coach on the field but will be a great resource for us. He finished his career and knew this was what he wanted to do and only wanted to do it at one place and that's Carolina."

The Gamecocks will take Sunday off before returning to the Long Family Football Operations Facility on Monday for meetings. The next practice is scheduled for Tuesday.

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