Anderson Dreyer Grades Shane Beamer’s Latest Staff Additions And Retentions

On Sunday afternoon, Shane Beamer made a handful of the long-awaited staff announcements official.

Essentially, every on field staff position has been filled other than defensive coordinator, defensive backs coach, and wide receivers coach.

A few of the hires are coaches retained from Muschamp’s staff, so not all of these coaches are new faces. Some of the hires have been universally praised by the Gamecock fanbase, while others have been pretty controversial.

Let’s take a closer look at the recent additions to the coaching staff. 

Special Teams Coordinator: Pete Lembo

Grade: A

Lembo has spent the past two seasons at Memphis, where his special teams units were among the best in the nation. In 2019, his Tigers special teams ranked Top 10 in the country in multiple categories, including kick return yards, kick return touchdowns, blocked field goals and blocked punts.

He also had outstanding special teams stats during his time at Maryland, so his days at Memphis are no fluke. Lembo also has head coaching experience, and will use that to help advise coach Beamer as an Associate Head Coach.

During his days as the Ball State head coach, Lembo’s teams set over 60 school records, most of which were on offense.

At the end of the day, Lembo has an outstanding track record in many aspects and should make an immediate impact for the Gamecocks special teams unit.

That paired with his ability to act as an experienced advisor for the rookie head coach combines for a great asset to the Carolina coaching staff. 

Running Backs Coach: Des Kitchings

Grade: A-

Kitchings was one of the holdovers from the Muschamp staff, but he is a good one to keep on board. Kitchings first arrived at South Carolina for the 2019 season, and he made an immediate impact.

He coached Kevin Harris, former 3-star recruit, into being the Gamecocks first 1,000 yards rusher since Mike Davis and earning AP first team All-SEC honors. That is not to take anything away from Kevin Harris as a player, but molding productive backs is something that Kitchings is known for.

He was previously at NC State, where he coached three straight 1,000 yard rushers from 2016-18.

Now that he has Kevin Harris back and Marshawn Lloyd returning from injury, it is safe to assume that the South Carolina running back room is one of the best in the SEC next year, if not the nation. 

Defensive Line Coach: Tracy Rocker

Grade: B

Rocker is another holdover from the previous staff that will remain in place for Shane Beamer.

Rocker is a long time SEC assistant coach, with stops at Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and Tennessee before landing at South Carolina. He also spent time in the NFL as an assistant coach.

Rocker played his college days at Auburn, where he was an All-American defensive lineman. He is well known for his outstanding development of defensive lineman at the collegiate level.

His recruiting ability has been questioned, but South Carolina already has a plethora of talent at his position group. If he is able to develop those players, the sky is the limit for the Gamecocks defensive line. 

Outside Linebackers Coach: Mike Peterson

Grade: B-

Peterson is still fairly early in his coaching career, but he has a lot of potential. Peterson is best known for his playing days, where he was an All-American in college and a second team All-Pro in the NFL.

Peterson’s first coaching gig was as the strength and conditioning coach at his alma mater Florida. However, he has been the outside linebackers coach at South Carolina since 2016 when Muschamp was hired.

To this point, Peterson has done a good job with his first on field coaching position and I think that he truly wanted to stay in Columbia for the new regime. The want to be in Columbia plays a big factor for coach Beamer, and it likely went a long way towards the decision to keep him on the new look staff.

Peterson has also been a valuable recruiter for Carolina, playing a large role in the recruitments of Jordan Burch, Brad Johnson, Jammie Robinson and other blue chip recruits. 

Offensive Line Coach: Will Friend

Grade: C+

Friend is a long time co-worker of Mike Bobo, and the pair are happy to be reunited once more. Friend was Bobo’s offensive coordinator at Colorado State (although Bobo was the play caller) and was also the offensive line coach at Georgia when Bobo was the offensive coordinator.

Friend is highly praised as a recruiter, but his offensive lines have had some trouble, especially in his recent years (2018-20) at Tennessee. While at Tennessee, the Vols rushing offense never ranked higher than 9th in the SEC, passing offense never ranked higher than 8th in the SEC and his line allowed the third most sacks in the SEC in 2020.

The majority of Tennessee fans were actually happy be rid of him when the news broke that he would be joining the Gamecock staff.

However, Friend did have a little bit better success while working with Bobo at Georgia, so there is hope that the two coaches are better working together rather than apart. 

Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks: Mike Bobo

Grade: C

Mike Bobo needs no introduction to the Gamecock fanbase. He spent 2020 as the Carolina offensive coordinator under Will Muschamp, and had his fair share of ups and downs throughout the season.

Make no mistake, Mike Bobo is not a bad offensive coach or play caller, but he is simply not a good fit for the new look Gamecocks.

Mike Bobo is a perfect fit for a defensive head coach. He runs a run first offense with a fullback and multiple tight ends that is much slower than most offenses these days. But, coach Beamer made it clear that this team will be offensive minded. he even said USC’s offense would ideally resemble Oklahoma’s, which is known for its warp-speed spread attack.

And in 2021 and moving forward, an offensive minded football team has no business running a slow, under-center based offense.

If nothing else, this is just a bizarre fit if coach Beamer is truly trying to implement an Oklahoma style offensive attack. 

Tight Ends Coach: Erik Kimrey

Grade: C

For anyone reading this that currently lives in Columbia, you might know Erik Kimrey from his radio show on 107.5 The Game. He was also previously the head coach at Hammond School, the high school where Jordan Burch played ball before arriving at USC.

Kimrey could very well turn out to be a home run hire for coach Beamer, but this move has obvious question marks at this point. Kimrey has been hired by Beamer because he is a USC man, who played quarterback for the Gamecocks from 1998-2002 and is a third generation USC grad.

However, other than being a grad assistant under Lou Holtz, Kimrey has no coaching experience at the collegiate level.

He will, however, bring an interesting and unique view to the Gamecocks coaching table, and it could end up being a boom or bust hire.

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