South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer, North Carolina head coach Mack Brown and several players addressed the media via Zoom, Wednesday, a little more than 24 hours ahead of kickoff for the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte.
Beamer is trying to become just the second Gamecocks coach to notch a bowl victory in his debut season. Brad Scott won the Carquest Bowl over West Virginia in his first season at the helm of South Carolina with a team featuring Steve Taneyhill, Brandon Bennett, Robert Brooks, Toby Cates, Ernest Dye and Tony Watkins.
For this group of Gamecocks to have as memorable a day in Charlotte as Taneyhill had in Miami Gardens, they’ll need to overcome a North Carolina offense that led the ACC in rushing, pro prospect Sam Howell, multiple transfers, suspensions, injuries and now …. absences due to COVID. We won’t know for certain which players, or how many, will not be available until warmups at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday morning. But Beamer has confirmed there were “some positive tests” in the last round of COVID testing. Beamer didn’t want to elaborate on the possibility of missing pieces from the coaching staff, as well. Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray and wide receivers coach Justin Stepp missed practice time for undisclosed reasons, but according to Beamer, both are expected to be on the sideline, Thursday.
Few expected Beamer to reach a bowl in Year 1, and the odds were stacked even higher as starting quarterback Luke Doty wasn’t able to start or finish the season healthy. Zeb Noland stepped in for Doty, leading the Gamecocks to a 2-0 start and a last-minute comeback victory over Vanderbilt. With Doty still in a walking boot and Jason Brown’s exit from the program, Beamer has called Noland’s number again.
Beamer’s success hasn’t gone unrecognized as it’s been announced that he is a finalist for the Steve Spurrier Award, recognizing achievement in a head coach’s first year at a program. Josh Heupel (Tennessee) and Gus Malzahn (UCF) are also finalists.
It appears UNC will enter the contest closer to full strength with regard to COVID. Mack Brown said, “As far as COVID is concerned, our guys have done a tremendous job …. as of right now, we’re in great shape.”
DL Jabari Ellis, WR Josh Vann, DB Jaylan Foster, G Jovaughn Gwyn and K Parker White also addressed the media. Heading into his final collegiate game, White is just three points shy of Elliott Fry’s school mark for points.
Kickoff for the Duke’s Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte is set for 11:30 a.m., Thursday.