South Carolina football has lost yet another star receiver to the NFL due to Bruce Ellington’s early departure from Columbia. What does the receiving corps look like without him?
The Gamecocks have a very talented group of receivers that have a fair amount of experience, but it will be imperative for someone to replace Ellington as the clear leader of the group.
Shaq Roland was predicted to do great things at South Carolina ever since his incredible high school career in Lexington, but his transition to the college game has been slow.
His freshman year was forgettable, as the young receiver failed to embrace the rigors of the college game and did not have a strong work ethic. Playing time in the 2012 season was hard to come by for Roland.
He came into the 2013 campaign with a better attitude, but he was suspended for three games for violating university rules. He worked hard though, showing flashes of the player he could be throughout the season.
The final game of the season showed the Gamecock faithful exactly what they wanted to see from Roland since day one. The junior had 6 receptions for 112 yards against Wisconsin, including this 49 yard beauty of a catch. (Via Youtube)
Roland caught five touchdown passes throughout the season, but the Wisconsin game will certainly be seen as the bright spot of the season for him. That game showed his great route running and impeccable hands. He is a physical receiver and is tall enough to go deep, but he has incredible speed as well.
Roland will be the number one man this season, and much of the offense’s success will depend on whether or not he has really turned the corner and reaches his true potential as a star.
The number two spot is not as clear-cut. Juniors Damiere Byrd and Nick Jones have been reliable targets the past few years, but sophomore Pharoh Cooper has caught Steve Spurrier’s eye.
All three will get significant playing time, but Cooper has been dubbed a special player by Spurrier, and he will likely get the nod. The 5-foot-11 Cooper can do a little of everything and do it all well. He caught and threw passes last season in addition to starring in the return game.
He can easily play inside, but he is obviously a versatile player and will be seen all over the field. Roland will shoulder the responsibility of being the number one receiver, but Cooper won’t be far behind.
The speedy Byrd will likely be the third starter. He’s the fastest player that South Carolina has, and he can torch a defense at any time during the game. The deep threat he poses will keep opposing defenses honest.
Nick Jones has been a reliable target and will be seeing plenty of time this season. He doesn’t have the blazing speed that Byrd does, but his 5-foot-7 frame allows for him to be a nuisance beneath the coverage, and he can get steady production from the slot position.
The receivers after that are largely untested. Shamier Jeffery, younger brother of Gamecock legend Alshon, played sparingly in 2013. He won’t see much more of an increase in playing time this season, but he has the potential to have a breakout season in the future.
Kane Whitehurst had four receptions last year, but two of them went for touchdowns. Whitehurst is stuck down the depth chart as well, but if he continues to take advantage of his chances he will see more time.
Fifth-year senior Dylan Thompson will have no shortage of targets to throw to next season, and Roland and Cooper both look to have breakout seasons. South Carolina has had a productive and balanced offense in the last three years, and that should stay true again with this group of receivers.