ATLANTA – South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer spoke highly of sophomore running back/kick-returner Caleb “Juju” McDowell Tuesday at SEC Media Days.

McDowell, who finished on the Freshman and Fourth-Team ALL-SEC team, was a dynamic kick-returner and running back for the Gamecocks. He finished the season rushing for 248 yards on 52 carries while adding two touchdowns. His longest rush of 35 yards came against North Carolina in the Dukes Mayo Bowl where the Gamecocks won 38-21.

While he had many flashes that game, Beamer pointed out his play in their second game last season against Eastern Carolina. Down 17-14 in the fourth quarter, McDowell returned a kick 63 giving the Gamecocks great field position on their opponents’ 33. The Gamecocks ended up winning 20-17 on a game winning field goal by kicker Parker White.

Beamer pointed out how critical his play was that game and how it boosted their season.

“That totally flipped the momentum of that game after we were down 14-0,” Beamer said. “We ended up winning that game, going 2-0 and (lead) us to the season we had.”

For McDowell to have an impact on this Gamecocks team early last season, Beamer is impressed by his playmaking ability. As the Gamecocks seek to have a better season in his second year as head coach, Beamer knows Juju has to be a part of it.

“I have high hopes for him,” said Beamer. “Our team is a better team when Juju is on the field. I love his competitive spirit on the field. I love his energy off the field. To come in and do what he did as a true freshman was impressive.”