South Carolina only lost three offensive starters from the 2013 season, but one of those was the team’s leading receiver and biggest playmaker. Bruce Ellington had a fantastic three-year career with the Gamecocks and is trying his luck in the 2014 draft.
South Carolina has reliable players to throw to, but one of them must emerge as a star this fall. Speedsters Nick Jones and Damiere Byrd are always deep threats, but neither of them have been the go to guy for the Gamecocks. Jerell Adams and Rory Anderson are solid pass catching tight ends, but their numbers weren’t called very often last season. Recent recruit Shaq Davidson was a great pickup for the Gamecocks in the most recent recruiting class and may feature this fall.
There is only one man that has the sheer talent to replace Ellington this season, and that is Shaq Roland. Former South Carolina Mr. Football from Lexington High School, Roland has more talent than any other receivers to play for South Carolina.
He played sparingly his freshman year due to a lax work ethic and was considered a disappointment. His sophomore campaign only yielded 455 yards, but 5 of his 25 catches went for touchdowns. He faced a suspension near the beginning of the season that prevented him from getting into an early rhythm.
He scored a 65-yard touchdown in the season opener against North Carolina that gave the Gamecock faithful hope for the young receiver. He didn’t really impress again until the Capital One Bowl against Wisconsin where Roland had the breakout game of his career. He caught six passes for 112 yards against the Badgers, including a few incredible highlight catches.
The talent has always been evident, but Roland’s impressive bowl performance may be an indicator that he is ready to put the work in necessary to elevate his game to the next level. It is important for him to take advantage of spring practice as the number one receiver and connect with Dylan Thompson.
The Gamecocks will ride Mike Davis as much as they can this season, but having a quarterback who likes to sling the ball means there will be many more opportunities in the passing game for Roland and company. Byrd and Jones will flourish having Thompson under center this season. Connor Shaw was an incredibly accurate quarterback, but Thompson’s strong arm plays into the home run ability that Carolina’s speedsters have.
Byrd and Jones will have the ability to stretch the field which should open up inside lanes for the two tight ends. Both players are huge and aren’t afraid to put their bodies on the line.
Defenses will always have to account for Mike Davis, and the play action pass will be a crucial aspect of South Carolina’s offense. No one will know if the attack is coming from the punishing running game or the aerial attack, but look for South Carolina to have the weapons to be dangerous all over the field.