With three straight 11-win seasons, the South Carolina football program has reached previously unattainable heights.
Head coach Steve Spurrier has raised expectations thanks to a consistency on the field and a steady stream of stars through the program.
Former cornerback Stephon Gilmore, former running back Marcus Lattimore and former defensive end Jadeveon Clowney all won "Mr. Football" honors in high school in the state of South Carolina from 2008-2010, and they went on to star for the Gamecocks during the resurgence.
The 2011 winner of that award—wide receiver Shaq Roland—is still waiting to make his mark.
The former 4-star prospect in the class of 2012 was ranked as the No. 52 player in the country coming out of Lexington (S.C.) High School and came to Columbia to help the Gamecocks stretch the field and keep defenses honest in what has become a run-first offense under Spurrier.
It didn't happen right away for the 6'1", 190-pound Roland.
He only had five catches for 80 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman in 2012 and found himself in Spurrier's doghouse early in 2013. He caught eight passes over the Gamecocks' first three games of the season before being suspended for three games in the middle of the season for taking the prescription drug Adderall, according to SportsTalkSC.com.
Once he returned to the lineup, he thrived.
Roland finished the season with 25 catches for 455 yards and five touchdowns, putting a cap on the year with a six-catch, 112-yard performance in the 34-24 Capital One Bowl win over Wisconsin. That set the tone for what should be a breakout season in 2014.
The Gamecocks will still be run-heavy with superstar running back Mike Davis being the focal point of the offense, but they'll open things up a bit after dual-threat quarterback Connor Shaw exhausted his eligibility.
Dylan Thompson—who Spurrier named the starter last month—is much more of a traditional pocket passer than his predecessor. His presence under center will force the Gamecocks to be more of a traditional offense, which means big things for Roland.
Bruce Ellington's absence means somebody is going to have to step up and become a No. 1 receiver, and Roland is the prime candidate. He has the size to get separation at the line of scrimmage, speed to be a deep threat and great hands.
Roland has the talent, and the window is open.
Now all he needs to do is take advantage of the opportunity that sits right in front of him. He appeared to have one foot in the door down the stretch last season and stuck a foot through it in the bowl game.
He'll kick it down this offseason and become a star as a junior in 2014 for the Gamecocks.
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