South Carolina’s Shane Beamer on Kirby Smart: ‘Kirby made me a better coach’

091821 Athens: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart shakes hands with South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer after beating South Carolina 40-13 in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 18, 2021, in Athens.    “Curtis Compton /”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

091821 Athens: Georgia head coach Kirby Smart shakes hands with South Carolina head coach Shane Beamer after beating South Carolina 40-13 in a NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept 18, 2021, in Athens. “Curtis Compton /”

ATHENS — Shane Beamer has a coaches’ resumé to die for. Few in the business can boast the diversity and sphere of influence that this Charleston, South Carolina, native has enjoyed during his 46 years on Earth.

That starts, of course, with his father, Frank Beamer. Shane generally is thought of as a product of Blacksburg, Virginia, where his dad served as the Virginia Tech head coach for so many years, but Frank Beamer was a young defensive line coach at The Citadel when Shane came into the world.

But it was after playing football at Blacksburg High and then matriculating at Virginia Tech as a wide receiver and long snapper that Shane Beamer’s career path into coaching was set. Certainly benefiting from his father’s connections in the business, Beamer’s stops on his professional journey reads like a who’s who in college football history.

Stop No. 1 actually was in Atlanta as a graduate assistant for George O’Leary at Georgia Tech. From there, Beamer worked for Phillip Fulmer at Tennessee, Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State and Steve Spurrier at South Carolina.

All that led Beamer back to Blacksburg, where he finally got to spend three years with his father as a tight ends position coach and assistant head coach.

But while his dad and all those other coaches certainly have had a profound influence on Beamer’s philosophies and tactics, none, he insists, were greater than the lessons he learned while working for Kirby Smart his first two seasons as Georgia’s head coach.

“I’ve been fortunate to be around some great coaches in my career, starting with coach O’Leary there in Atlanta when I first got into coaching. But, honestly, those two years I spent in Athens with Kirby had as much of an impact on my career and my philosophy as anywhere I’ve been,” Beamer said during the SEC coaches’ teleconference Wednesday. “Kirby made me a better coach. I’d been to a lot of places before I got to Athens, but Kirby made me a better coach because he’s demanding, he sees everything, he holds you accountable, he knows all three phases. And it was great for me from a recruiting standpoint to be a part of that program.”

Beamer left Georgia following the 2017 season that saw the Bulldogs defeat Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl to reach the national championship game. Beamer garnered some headlines in Columbia, South Carolina, this week when he reiterated that Tyler Simmons indeed was “still onside” on one of the critical calls that derailed the Bulldogs’ chances of defeating Alabama in the title game that season.

But soon after that fateful night, Beamer bolted again. This time he was off to Oklahoma to serve as assistant head coach and to coach tight ends for Lincoln Riley. Ultimately, that was the job that led Beamer to be tabbed as the Gamecocks’ head coach in December 2020.

Beamer is still trying to gain his footing in that role. This is Year 3, and the jury is still out. South Carolina finished Year 2 in a flurry, knocking off Tennessee and Clemson to end the season, before losing to Notre Dame 45-38 in a shootout in a Gator Bowl shootout.

Expectations were high as the Gamecocks opened the 2023 season against North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Classic in Charlotte. But an extremely poor second half did them in as the Tar Heels claimed a 31-14 victory.

Now South Carolina (1-1) visits Sanford Stadium for the SEC opener as an almost four-touchdown underdog to No. 1-ranked Georgia. Beamer’s previous run-ins with the Bulldogs have not gone well. In the home-and-away meetings of the past two years, the Gamecocks were bested by the combined score of 88-20.

Since Beamer bolted for Oklahoma, the narrative has been that Smart has had it in for his former assistant. But his public comments at every turn don’t substantiate such a claim.

They actually have known each other many years. It goes back to when they would see each other during summers on Lake Oconee, where Frank Beamer and the Smarts have second homes.

“We had met several times there, crossed paths,” Smart said. “He was a (graduate assistant) at Tennessee at one time, and I remember when he got on staff at Mississippi State. I got to know him there. He interviewed once at Alabama for something. So we’ve known each other for quite a while and had been friends.”

Beamer was among Smart’s earliest hires after he got the Georgia job in December 2015. Frank Beamer, then 69, had announced his retirement from Virginia Tech a month earlier. When it was clear that Shane wasn’t going to be considered as successor, he knew he needed to find work.

“He was a guy I thought would bring good energy, be a good recruiter, a good special-teams style,” Smart said. “I wanted to bring him onto our staff because I knew how loyal he’d be and how hard-working he’d be.”

For his part, Beamer said those two years in Athens were invaluable, especially once he got to Columbia as a first-time head coach.

“I was with Kirby from Day 1, and that really helped me when I took this job as a first-time head coach, using some of the things that I learned seeing Kirby go through it his first year in Athens,” Beamer said.

So far, Gamecock Nation seems to be satisfied with Beamer. He has established a reputation as an outgoing, fun-loving coach who’s not afraid to cut up a little on social media or make a high-risk call on special teams.

“Beamer Ball,” as it came to be called in Blacksburg, is alive and well in Columbia. Last year, the Gamecocks ranked No. 1 in FBS in the special-teams metric that combines all facets of that area of the sport. South Carolina blocked six kicks in 2022 and scored five special-teams touchdowns. All-American punter Kai Kroeger is a true multi-threat athlete capable of attempting almost anything regardless of down and distance.

That definitely is a trademark of the teaching and influence of Beamer’s father. But Shane Beamer said if anyone from Georgia spent time following the day-to-day inner workings of the South Carolina program, they’d definitely recognize some of the processes.

“I’ve taken from everywhere I’ve been,” Beamer said. “Certainly, we’re not identical to the Georgia program here; we have a lot of differences. But there are a lot of things that are very similar if you spend a lot of time around both programs. I’m fortunate for the two years I got with (Smart).”

Then again, there are lots of mutual influences in this 129-year-old, border-state rivalry. Georgia assistants Mike Bobo, Bryan McClendon and Will Muschamp all coached at South Carolina in recent years. Currently, former Georgia player George Wynn and assistant coach Greg Adkins are members of the Gamecocks’ support staff, and their roster features 19 players from the state of Georgia.