It happens every year. One or two or three freshmen who no one expected to contribute quite so soon, make a quick transition to the college level and show they can help their team.
South Carolina freshman tight end Rory Anderson appears to be one of this year's perfect examples.
It's not that Anderson wasn't obviously talented -- the Powder Springs, Ga.-native made several big grabs look easy in the early preseason practices that were open to the public.
But listed at 6-foot-5, 207-pounds, Anderson looked more like another member of the Gamecocks' prized receiving corps than a tight end and likely to redshirt to bulk up in the Gamecocks' strength and conditioning program.
But Anderson has apparently been too impressive to keep off the field.
With just over a week until the Gamecocks' opener against ECU, he sits ahead of former defensive end Corey Simmons and freshman Drew Owens in the race for the back-up tight end spot, he said Thursday. Steve Spurrier later confirmed the news during his call-in show that night.
"What they were looking for in recruiting was a receiving tight end, and I think I fit that quite well," Anderson said.
Tight ends coach Jay Graham had said Tuesday that a decision hadn't been made yet on which of his two freshman would play, but that both were playing well.
"The biggest thing is for them to be able to get in that game and be able to manage the situation, manage a series in the game," he said. "We're trying to get them as many reps as possible."
Graham added that Anderson has been the more impressive receiver and Owens the better blocker, but they've been looking for the best overall tight end.
For Anderson, that means showing he can be an adequate blocker.
Despite his listed size, Anderson says he's actually up to 215 pounds. He packed on 20 pounds in the summer strength program but then dropped five once camp started.
With a target weight in the 235-pound range, he knows this season will be about effort in the blocking game.
"Obviously, it's much bigger guys," he says. "I used to just dominate in the blocking game in high school, but now you need that weight, and right now I'm just doing what I can with what I have."
His ascension up the depth chart has been a quiet one due to closed practices.
He'll add another vertical threat to an offense that already has an array of weapons, and add another dimension to the position as a stark contrast in skillset to starter Justice Cunningham.
The redshirt junior is one of the better blockers on the team and will not only play tight end but an H-back role similar to Patrick DiMarco's last season.
That should leave plenty of opportunity for Anderson to be on the field at the same time as Cunningham and in obvious passing situations.
With the opener closing in, Anderson is doing everything he can to be ready when his name is called.
"The speed, the speed is pretty fast out here," Anderson said when asked the hardest part about the transition. "We've got a lot of different plays, a lot of different names for the same plays. [I'm] just trying to get the plays down and get ready to go."
Anderson makes his move
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