Making sense of Dakereon Joyner’s decreased role for South Carolina in 2022

Sam Wolfe/Special To The State

South Carolina is one-third of the way through the 2022 season.

USC has a 2-2 record heading into the meat of their campaign, with games against S.C. State and Kentucky on deck the next two weeks.

You’ve got questions. I’ve got answers. Let’s get into it.

Why is Dakereon Joyner not playing? He suits up every game but rides the bench. He was visibly upset on sideline last night for not getting playing time. Kid is an amazingly talented athlete and almost single-handedly won our bowl game. What’s the scoop?

Dakereon Joyner deserves all the credit in the world for South Carolina’s win over UNC in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl last year.

Joyner was magical that day in Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. South Carolina doesn’t win that game without him. Watching Joyner then parlay that into over six-figures in name, image and likeness deals, too, is exactly what that legislation was designed for.

Here’s the issue: That’s not the norm.

Joyner is genuinely as nice a guy as you’ll find on South Carolina’s roster. He’s always thoughtful with reporters, coaches love him and his work ethic is as good as it gets.

However, we’re at a point in both the Gamecocks’ evolution and Joyner’s career that we’ve probably seen the ceiling in terms of what he can do on the field.

The North Charleston product played just eight snaps in Saturday’s victory over Charlotte, per Pro Football Focus. That’s the least he’s received — outside of attempting to play hurt Week 1 — since he played just six snaps against Georgia in 2020.

Beamer told reporters on Sunday night that some of Saturday’s usage for Joyner simply had to do with scheme. The Gamecocks ran the ball so effectively, it was rare Joyner and the receivers needed to be heavily involved. Combine that with Joyner having to rotate at his position with Ahmarean Brown, and there just weren’t that many snaps up for grabs.

The most receiver snaps through four games, according to PFF, have gone to Jalen Brooks (113), Antwane Wells (108), Brown (102), Josh Vann (63), Xavier Legette (58) and Joyner (26). That accounts for the number of times a receiver lined up on a play where USC passed the ball.

Joyner has one rush for 3 yards and one catch for -1 yard, and has appeared in each game.

Joyner is truly an incredible story and a fantastic person. People will talk about his performance against UNC for the next 40 years. He shouldn’t have to buy a drink in Columbia for longer than that.

But with the combination of South Carolina’s talent upgrades at receiver this offseason and depending on the scheme, it’s hard to imagine Joyner being a major factor this year barring something completely unforeseen.

Beginning to think the coaching staff is good at making adjustments during game when they see what other team is doing, but not so good at coming up with game plan before game — Lonnie W.

The Gamecocks have had all sorts of woes to start games since Shane Beamer took over as head coach. The second half? Not quite as much.

South Carolina’s defense was shredded for seven consecutive third-down conversions to start Saturday’s game against Charlotte. It took until 6:22 remained in the second quarter to find its first stop. From there? Charlotte finished the game with one conversion of its final seven tries on third down.

That’s adjusting.

South Carolina’s offense, too, has fallen into this trap. The Gamecocks have been outscored 272-175 in 16 games against FBS competition in the first half, including defensive scores. Compare that with a 201-155 mark in the second half of those same games.

Beamer has spent the bulk of his tenure maligning his squad’s slow starts. Take last year’s losses to Georgia, Tennessee and Texas A&M as evidence of as much. But the resiliency the Gamecocks have shown late in games is something that should be transferable in tight contests.

Saturday was another feather in the cap for the second-half adjustment crowd.

Why can they only score this much on lower-tier teams? When it comes to playing major Power 5 schools they look like the teams they’ve beaten this year. — Berry O.

We played the worst defensive team in the nation and what, scored 20 points in the first half and only 3 in the first quarter? — Eddie B.

Both these questions get at a few things I mentioned in the above answer, but let’s talk offense for a minute.

First off, I don’t really understand the ire toward quarterback Spencer Rattler so far this year. He’s been basically what was to be expected — some good, some bad.

Rattler currently ranks seventh in the SEC in total passing yards. If that were to hold, it’d be the best finish for a Gamecocks quarterback since Ryan Hilinski also finished seventh in 2019. Before that? Jake Bentley finished fourth in the league in passing in 2018.

That, of course, doesn’t excuse Rattler for leading the SEC in interceptions among quarterbacks who are attempting 15 or more throws per game. That has to be better.

It hasn’t been perfect by any stretch, but South Carolina is far more stable and more talented at quarterback than it has been probably since Bentley or Dylan Thompson lined up under center.

USC does absolutely need to show more in games against Power Five teams. In 12 games against major conference opponents, the Gamecocks have been outscored 390-242 — that includes 304-115 in the eight contests USC has lost under Beamer.

Two things can be true: South Carolina played well offensively on Saturday AND Charlotte is really, really, really bad defensively. But, again, what’s the alternative? That South Carolina looked terrible against a bad defense?

The Gamecocks had their issues on Saturday. But they did score points on all seven drives the first-team offense was out there and the running game looked as good as ever under Beamer.

That result isn’t a guarantee South Carolina lights the world on fire offensively the rest of the year, but it’s a step after an embarrassing performance against Georgia the week before.