Steve Spurrier, Jr. has a problem. A big problem. And it's the best problem he's had since he began coaching at South Carolina. He has too many receivers.
South Carolina returns All American and Biletnikoff Award finalist Alshon Jeffery along with a wealth of new receivers and Spurrier, Jr. will have to trim a list of 10 capable receivers to about five or six in the next three and a half weeks before the Gamecocks open the season against East Carolina in Charlotte on September 3rd.
"We're going to pick out the best," Spurrier, Jr. said following Wednesday morning's practice. "You're a good player – I like what you do – but this guy is a little better than you. Usually they know it. I've let people know I'm trying to identify what you do better than anybody else, and as a player make sure you own one of those skills."
Carolina has six receivers that stand 6'0 or taller and several speedy receivers that are potential game-breakers. It is up to Spurrier, Jr. to find a good mix of both to keep defenses guessing
"I'm constantly talking – this guy blocks well, this guy runs well, this guy's quick, this guy's tough," Spurrier, Jr. said. "What do you do better than anybody else? If you're not one of those guys, you're a good player and I respect you, but this guy's better than you and he's probably going to play more."
Jeffery is for sure going to be the number one target for quarterback Stephen Garcia. After hauling in 88 catches and over 1500 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010, more than twice as much as any other Gamecock receiver in each category, Jeffery will surely be on the field as much as possible.
"I don't mind seeing Alshon catch 150 balls this year," Spurrier, Jr. said with a smile. "More than likely it won't happen. You hope it doesn't happen because that means you have other guys playing well. We are hoping that we have a couple of other guys step up this year. Ideally Alshon will catch the most balls this year. I think we'll have one or two other guys that can really show up and be a reliable substitute for Alshon in important situations. "
After number two receiver from 2010 Tori Gurley decided to go pro. That has opened the door for the other receivers to step in. D.L. Moore and Jason Barnes are the most experienced and are currently the other two starting receivers, but Ace Sanders is getting plenty of looks in practice and DeAngelo Smith burst onto the scene in the spring. Newcomers Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd, and Shamier Jeffery will also challenge for playing time. All will be behind #1.
"It's not like (Alshon) is an average player and everyone else is below him," Spurrier, Jr. said. "I wish they'd say I want to be like him. They all know Alshon is clearly better than me. He can do things I can't do. But I hope he presses me to try and be as good as him. He runs well, he competes hard, he practices hard, he catches well, he's tough, he does things I hope we strive to be like him."
No freshman has been talked about more than Byrd. Byrd's speed has wowed fans and teammates and impressed the coaches.
"Damiere has really good hands for not being a big guy," Spurrier, Jr. said. "He's got great balance – people come and shove him around and he really maintains a center of gravity really well. For a smaller guy he's really done well."
On Wednesday a new receiver emerged. Freshman K.J. Brent had a great practice, hauling in several balls and had two touchdown receptions from quarterback Stephen Garcia in seven-on-seven drills.
"KJ had a bunch of balls come his way and played well," Spurrier, Jr. said. "It's all about opportunities at wide receiver – different coverages sometimes you get more opportunities than others. The ball was coming his way today and he made some good catches."
Saturday, the team will hold their first scrimmage of fall practice at 4:00. Hitting each other for the first time will be play a huge role in who will emerge as the favorites to play receiver. The freshmen will get their first glimpse of what it's like to play in the SEC.
"There's a lot of camp left. We scrimmage Saturday and that's obviously what we need. Today was the first day we had some pretty good contact and, honestly, most of our receivers aren't used to getting hit and they took some good hits today. I tried to remind them that I've never been part of a good defense that doesn't have DB's that hit you hard. We've got some DB's that can fly around. Saturday's really where we're going to separate these guys."
The team will have two more practices before Saturday's scrimmage. Thursday's and Friday's practices are both scheduled to begin at 8:30 A.M. and are currently open to the public.
Spurrier, Jr. talks receivers
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