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Homecoming, family ties, hopes of personal growth bring the 2024 football transfer class to Թϱ

<p>FILE- Gamecock football recruits redshirt sophomore defensive back Gerald Kilgore (left) and graduate student linebacker Demetrius Knight Jr. (right) laugh while being acknowledged during halftime at a Gamecock men's basketball game on Jan. 27, 2024. Gerald Kilgore will join his younger brother, sophomore defensive back Jalon Kilgore, on the team.</p>
FILE- Gamecock football recruits redshirt sophomore defensive back Gerald Kilgore (left) and graduate student linebacker Demetrius Knight Jr. (right) laugh while being acknowledged during halftime at a Gamecock men's basketball game on Jan. 27, 2024. Gerald Kilgore will join his younger brother, sophomore defensive back Jalon Kilgore, on the team.

Members of the Թϱ football team's 2024 transfer class decided to commit to garnet and black for a variety of reasons, whether it be reuniting close family ties, returning home or setting goals for their personal position.

Highly recruited athletes from schools across the country have made their way to Columbia with hopes of playing in an environment where they can focus on aspects of the game that matter most to them. Players such as senior wide receiver Gage Larvadain said it was the coaches that made them feel like they belonged at Թϱ. 

Larvadain said the positivity in the building, along with meeting former tight ends coach Justin Stepp, was all it took to know he was in the right place. 

“It is just one of those things that, when you meet someone, you just know,” Larvadain said. “I just knew this is where I wanted to be.” 

Stepp isn't the only coach who inspired players in the portal to join the Gamecocks. Graduate student running back Oscar Adaway III and redshirt sophomore defensive back Gerald Kilgore also praised their position coaches' NFL experiences as a selling point in their recruiting processes.

Both Adaway III and Kilgore said they were excited to play under running backs coach Marquel Blackwell and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray, who have helped players such as Kareem Hunt and Terrell Edmunds achieve NFL-level success. 

“The track record that (Coach Gray) has is ridiculous,” Kilgore said. “The amount of guys that he's allowed to touch the NFL stage is ridiculous, so being up under a coach like him is once in a lifetime.” 

Kilgore, however, has more than an acclaimed coach tying him to the Gamecocks. His younger brother, Jalon Kilgore, is a sophomore defensive back on the team. He said having the opportunity to play alongside his brother at the collegiate level is a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity." 

“My parents are super excited, so they can just go to one location now and don’t have to split every weekend,” Kilgore said. “We can get a lot of family here now, so it’s been real exciting.” 

For others, playing for the Gamecocks allows them to return home to Թϱ. Graduate student quarterback Davis Beville, a transfer from Oklahoma, said playing for the Gamecocks is his last opportunity to play football in his home state. The Greenville native said he plans to "leave it all out on the line" in his sixth and final year of college football. 

The 2024-25 season will be a different type of homecoming for redshirt senior edge Gilber Edmond, who spent three years with the Gamecocks before transferring to Florida State for one season. Despite not being from the area, Edmond came back to the place his career began for his fifth year. 

Head coach Shane Beamer said Edmond may have damaged his teammates' trust by transferring, however, and he will have to work hard to regain their respect.

“He was very eager about getting back here, and I tried to paint as ugly a picture as I could,” Beamer said. “‘There is going to be guys in that locker room — Gilber — that probably are mad that you left, and it’s going to take some time to rebuild that trust with them. He was adamant about wanting to.” 

Some, though, have chosen Թϱ with hopes to further their growth as players. Redshirt senior quarterback Robby Ashford said many schools reached out to him with an offer of a starting job. But Ashford wanted to earn that position himself. 

“I never want to be a guy who just walks in and gets anything handed to him,” Ashford said. “I want to be a guy that come in here and earn the trust and respect of my teammates and the coaches. It's just a great opportunity to compete.” 

Transferring from Auburn, another SEC school, Ashford said he is glad Թϱ had the confidence in him to come and compete in its quarterback room. 

Sophomore running back Jawarn Howell also looks to blossom during spring practice by learning from older, more experienced players such as senior running back Raheim "Rocket" Sanders. Howell, being the youngest running back in the room, has much to learn about taking his game to the next level, he said.

“It's a big part of me growing as a person and a player,” Howell said. “With Oscar, 'Rocket,' those guys, (senior running back) Juju (McDowell) — they are all going to teach you something valuable in the game. You can take that and run with it, grow with it and excel to the next level.” 

No matter the reason, each member of the transfer class came to Columbia in hopes of piecing together a successful 2024 team. Coach Beamer said he has high hopes that the incoming transfers will fill the missing gaps in Թϱ's game.

"We may have a lot of new faces here, all across the board," Beamer said. "We may have lost a lot of production here at (South) Carolina, but we replaced it with a lot of production from other schools." 


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