South Carolina Football: Evaluating the Wide Receivers
I feel like I have been talking about the wide receivers a great deal these past few weeks. I'm either writing about how the wide receivers are one of the keys to the 2012 season, or discussing them when evaluating the tight end position. I'm constantly asked about Shaq Roland and my opinion on how good Ace Sanders can be.
These unknown guys have a chance to be very special. There may not be a clear-cut No. 1, but it won't be necessary.
Here is part four of my Gamecock overview.
Weight: 175 lbs.
Pros: Speed, agility, leadership, hands, route running
The diminuitive Ace Sanders has a very big chance to be special. He's extremely fast and shockingly strong. He's also tough as nails. He will be looked to as an offensive leader, and he's shown off some great leadership ability, as Steve Spurrier deceided to take him to media day to represent the program.
There is a great chance that he blows up this season. There aren't many defensive backs that can cover him one on one.
Weight: 168 lbs.
Pros: Speed, speed, speed, more speed, and speed
Cons: Hands, strength, route running
Damiere Byrd is possibly one of the fastest players in college football, but it didn't translate to much in 2011. He's worked diligently this offseason to improve his route running and hands, his two most pressing issues.
Instead of only being good at one route, he now looks much smoother coming out of his various cuts, and he isn't dropping many balls in practice. He was named the most improved wide receiver during the spring.
If this can translate into real game success, then he will be a star.
Weight: 196 lbs.
Pros: Hands, jumping ability, concentration
Cons: Consistency, experience
DeAngelo Smith has been a spring star for two straight years. However, he played the same position as Alshon Jeffery and never saw much playing time. He's now listed as a probable starter, so this could be the year.
He is a well-rounded receiver. He's not amazing in any one category. His workmanlike efforts will pay off this season.
Weight: 198 lbs.
Pros: Size, strength
Cons: Inability to get open, consistency
For a player who has started 13 games, D.L. Moore sure hasn't produced much. He seems to lack the ability to get separation. He is capable of being a big contributor for this program, but he must work harder without the ball in his hands in order to reach his potential.
With the Gamecocks searching for a big-bodied deep threat, now is the time for D.L. Moore to shine.
Weight: 173 lbs.
Pros: Speed, agility, jumping ability, concentration
Cons: Size, adjusting to the speed of the game
Shaq Roland has made a believer out of me this spring. I originally didn't think his much ballyhooed jumping ability was nearly as impressive as Alshon Jeffery's.
Boy, was I wrong. This kid can flat out soar. He's also got amazing hands and concentration. As long as his small frame doesn't get hurt and he adjusts to the speed of college football, he will be an immediate and long lasting contributor.
Weight: 184 lbs.
Year: Redshirt Freshman
Pros: Speed, agility, work ethic, intelligence, size, hands
Cons: Experience, injury concerns
K.J. Brent is the total package. He broke his tibia in high school, and there is some concern about his ability to stay on the field. However, if he does, he could be a superstar. Not just a star... a SUPER star.
He has impressed Steve Spurrier since the day he arrived on campus. He has military discipline and the ability to match.
Weight: 197 lbs.
Pros: Speed, agility, strength, leadership, versatility
Cons: Plays two sports, route running
Basketball superstar Bruce Ellington proved he also belonged on the gridiron by earning Freshman All-SEC honors as an all-purpose player. He played quarterback, caught passes, ran as a running back and took back kicks.
He did it all. This year, he will focus on being more of a traditional wide receiver. He's a skilled player that only needs to work on his route running ability a bit more to be a true breakaway threat.
Weight: 214 lbs.
Year: Redshirt Freshman
Cons: Hands, route running, concentration, injury concerns, experience as a wide receiver
Shamier Jeffery was once called a faster version of his brother Alshon, and it was assumed that his place as a Gamecock star would be guaranteed. Well, it hasn't been that easy. He was mostly a quarterback in high school, and his transition hasn't been smooth.
He is faster than his brother, but he lacks the fundamental wide receiver skills necessary to be a star right now. His work ethic also doesn't match up with his brothers. All in all, he has a lot of work to do to live up to the lofty expectations set before him.
I am definitely rooting for him.
Weight: 184 lbs.
Pros: Speed, hands
Cons: Size, strength
One of the forgotten receivers, Nick Jones is actually a very solid player. He's blazing fast and knows the offense. As a redshirt freshman last year, he had a dozen catches for 143 yards and a score.
While those aren't mind-blowing numbers, he was buried on the depth chart and made the most of each of his opportunities. He actually made some big plays throughout the year.
He could be a regular contributor to the team and could improve upon his numbers.
Weight: 201 lbs.
Pros: Speed, vision, hands
Cons: Experience, youth
A true freshman, Jody Fuller picked South Carolina over Miami, North Carolina and Tennessee. The 4-star (according to ESPN) prospect has a lot of potential and will be a major contributor for South Carolina in the upcoming seasons.
However, I see him redshirting this season.
Weight: 201 lbs.
Pros: Size, strength, leaping ability
Cons: Youth, experience
Another 4-tar (ESPN and Scout) prospect, Kwinton Smith has an excellent receiver body. He's got size, strength and surprisingly good speed.
However, I also see him redshirting this season.
Yes, you heard me (or rather read me) correctly. This group of wide receivers is as good as last year's, even without Alshon Jeffery.
Am I crazy? No. (Well, maybe).
In fact, I think this group benefits with his absence. As great a player as Alshon Jeffery is, there is so much skill and variety with this group, they can make defenses more leery of each player. Before, they could concentrate on the run and then double- or triple-team Alshon.
This year, the improved individuals on the team and the emergence of some freshman stars (specifically Shaq Roland and K.J. Brent) will make this a group to reckon with.