Who replaces Alshon?

Who replaces Alshon? It's the question on the mind of just about every South Carolina fan. But the biggest question for receiver coach Steve Spurrier, Jr. may be how to get the best combination of talent on the field.

It might be the biggest question South Carolina faces as the Gamecocks try to build on a historic 11-2 campaign.

And it's probably a question wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier, Jr. gets asked quite a bit: who's replacing Alshon?

"That's hard to put those shoes out there and ask somebody to grab them," Spurrier, Jr. says.

Probably impossible, really.

The school's all-time leader in receiving yards, Alshon Jeffery not only gave the South Carolina offense a go-to threat in the passing game, but also teamed with running back Marcus Lattimore, when Lattimore was healthy, to form one of the best duos in the country.

While Lattimore will be back, Alshon Jeffery isn't walking through that door.

Head coach Steve Spurrier hopes that with another offseason of development for his quarterback Connor Shaw, that a South Carolina passing game that threw for just 181 yards per game last season, will be much improved in 2012. But much of that will rely on several reliable targets stepping up at receiver.

"Replacing alshon will be tough," Spurrier, Jr. said. "I don't think we've got a guy quite like him right now -- hopefully we can recruit one -- but the guys we've got are good. We'll have an offense that fits their skills."

While no one receiver will be able to directly replace Jeffery, there are multiple possibilities of combinations that could form a strong receiving corps.

Spurrier, Jr's toughest question may not be how to replace Jeffery, but what combination of players gets the most talent on the field.

(Douglas Jones-USPRESSWIRE)
"You can tell he's gotten stronger, faster, bigger -- all the things you kind of look for -- and more confident." -Steve Spurrier, Jr. on Ace Sanders.
At only 5-foot-7, Ace Sanders is a much different receiver than the 6-foot-3 Jeffery, but Sanders could take over as the Gamecocks' best receiver on the field.

"Ace has really improved," Spurrier, Jr. says.

"You can tell he's gotten stronger, faster, bigger -- all the things you kind of look for -- and more confident. Last year or two years ago it took him a while to really kind of feels his way through it and now you can see him really moving fast and confident. He knows where to go and how to get there. He looks really, really good."

Sanders plays the 'Z' receiver position in South Carolina offense which usually leads to him lining up in the slot.

Jeffery's direct replacement position-wise right now is DeAngelo Smith, who is currently the first-teamer at Jeffery's vacated 'X' receiver spot.

Smith had a strong spring last year and was a standout in the Garnet and Black spring game, but seemed to take a step back in the fall. The reason for that may have been that Smith knew once the season started that he wouldn't be playing much while in Jeffery's shadow.

That's not the case anymore.

"He knows if he goes and plays well this spring [that] he's the guy," Spurrier, Jr. said. "So he's going to get a chance to go play. But he's going to play a lot this spring. He's going to get a lot of reps."

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"He's a real good player. We're looking forward to watching him go." -Steve Spurrier, Jr. on Damiere Byrd.
That doesn't mean the spot will be given to him without opposition. Sophomore Damiere Byrd, who has shown signs of being a true deep threat playmaker, moved from his spot at 'Z' to compete with Smith for first-team honors at 'X'.

Byrd didn't have the true freshman season he wanted to, but is the fastest player on the team and could have a breakout season this year.

"We've given him kind of a position right now. We're going to let him play," Spurrier, Jr. says. "He's tougher than he looks, because he's not a real big guy, he's kind of skinny, but he plays hard. He's a real good player. We're looking forward to watching him go."

Jeffery's little brother, redshirt freshman Shamier Jeffery is also in the mix at his brother's old position, but he tweaked his knee in practice last week causing him to miss two practices and Saturday's scrimmage.

(Douglas Jones-USPRESSWIRE)
"I've always just liked him. He's strong, he's tough, he's quick, he can catch the ball. He can make plays." -Steve Spurrier, Jr. on Bruce Ellington.
The wildcard of the group could be Bruce Ellington, who rejoined the team last week after originally deciding before spring practice that he would concentrate on basketball only. The two-sport standout caught 17 passes for 211 yards last season as a freshman despite taking a season off from football and the fact that he was a quarterback in high school.

Ellington is currently Sanders' back-up at the 'Z' spot but has proved he can play multiple receiver positions, and South Carolina's offense puts two 'Z' players on the field in many of its four-receiver sets.

"It makes us better," Spurrier, Jr. said of having Ellington back. "I've always just liked him. He's strong, he's tough, he's quick, he can catch the ball. He can make plays. He's just a really good receiver and really excited to have him out here."

The third receiver spot in the base offense is the 'B'. Fifth-year senior D.L. Moore and redshirt sophomore Nick Jones shared the position with the departed Jason Barnes last season.

Moore and Jones are back but will have to hold of redshirt freshman K.J. Brent, who was a standout early last fall but wasn't quite ready to play.

"He's much more prepared now," Spurrier, Sr. says. "He's much more ready to play now than he was last year."

Spurrier, Jr's current crop will look to impress before three talented freshmen -- Shaq Roland, Kwinton Smith and Jody Fuller -- arrive in the fall to try and take their spots.

Spurrier, Jr. says they'll all get the chance to show they're ready.

"We rotate a bunch of receivers [and] a bunch of quarterbacks [in the spring], and they're all going to get their opportunities just to really see who can stand out and make plays. I tell these guys everyday, it's who can make plays -- when the ball's in the air who can come down with it?"

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