Small receivers making big plays

Three Gamecock receivers under 5-foot-9 are starting to make a name for themselves in this South Carolina offense. Behind the hands of Ace Sanders, Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd, these three totaled 247 yards on 10 catches with two touchdowns against UAB.

Smaller receivers are something we haven't seen much lately on a South Carolina football team. Names like Sidney Rice and Alshon Jeffery certainly have been the big-play threats that have bailed out many Gamecock quarterbacks. With Alshon Jeffery leaving for the NFL draft, the Gamecocks found themselves with several smaller, speedier receivers like Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd and Ace Sanders. All three had the talent but hadn't quite had the production that Jeffery or Rice have had for the Gamecocks.

Well, don't tell those three that.

Ellington, Byrd and Sanders combined for 247 yards on 10 catches with two touchdowns on Saturday night as each one had their moment in the spotlight for the Gamecocks.

Byrd's catch for 94 yards was his first career touchdown but also put himself in the South Carolina record books as the fourth-longest pass play in school history. Byrd's touchdown reception is behind Troy Williamson's 99-yard catch against Virginia in 2003, Matthew Thomas' 98-yard reception against Mississippi in 2003 and Robert Brooks' 97-yard reception against East Carolina in 1988. Byrd is currently leading the team in receiving yards with 197 yards.

Ellington has worked to become a steady receiver and it's really showing for the Gamecocks. Against UAB, he had five catches for 98 yards. Last week, he had four catches for 63 yards. Ellington increased his weight to handle the rigors of the college football season and improved his route-running over the offseason. He seems much more comfortable in this offense and is really finding his rhythm right now.

The senior leader of the bunch, Ace Sanders, finally made his mark with his performance against UAB. Sanders had four catches for 55 yards with one touchdown. Several of Sanders' catches had him making the short catch on the quick pass to the outside and turning up field for extra yards. His speed was really on display against UAB and this could be the performance that the Gamecocks needed from him to help him step up his play for the rest of the season.

All three receivers stand 5-foot-9 or smaller and all weigh under 200 pounds. These aren't the physical receivers you've grown accustomed to in Steve Spurrier's tenure at South Carolina, but they're starting to show that sometimes, smaller is better.

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