Redshirt Report: Offense
One player who has a chance to make a huge impact in Steve Spurrier's offense is wide receiver Joseph Hills. The Palmetto, FL-native first showed his limitless potential early in fall practice, but was sidelined for almost the entire season with a nagging knee sprain. While fellow class of 2007 receiver Dion Lecorn and senior receiver Kenny McKinley have established themselves as proven receivers in the offense, USC is still looking for a big time receiver who can go up and get the football to replace departed receiver Sidney Rice. Steve Spurrier even went as far as saying Hills has hands as good as anyone's on the team. If the talented freshman has spent his time wisely and knows the offense by next season, he could be hard for the other South Carolina receivers to keep out of the starting lineup.
Two other receivers looking to make an impact are Matt Clements and Jason Barnes. Barnes looked like a sure-fire contributor when he impressed early on with his natural receiving ability in summer passing drills. He then performed well in the first couple weeks of fall practice but seemed to hit a wall midway through the pre-season. The 6-3, 203 pound former Independence High star is a hard worker though, and played in a pass-happy offense in high school, so he should have every opportunity to make an impact next year. Barnes runs good routes and has better-than-average speed for his size so there's no reason to believe he can't play a big role on next year's team.
Clements, a Florida-native and former four-star prospect according to Scout.com, is a different type receiver than Barnes, but should have just as much chance to make a contribution as Barnes. Clements is the type of speedy, downfield threat the USC offense needs to stretch the field. Clements also showed signs early in fall practice, just did not quite know the playbook well enough to be a full time receiver. Clements is already a solid downfield blocker, something the staff loves in their receivers, so if he continues to learn the playbook he should be another playmaker in the offense.
One receiver who may not spend the spring on offense is Columbia, SC-native Mark Barnes. While it is purely speculation right now, with USC's growing depth at wide receiver and lack of depth at safety, don't be surprised to see the young playmaker make the move back to defense where he began his college career early in fall practice. Barnes will simply need to be put on a certain side of the ball and left there because he is the type of athlete and player who could learn either position and become an All-SEC type performer. Should Barnes stay on offense, he did show a natural receiving ability and knew how to use his body to attack the ball at its highest point despite the other receivers having more time in the offense.
Perhaps the one redshirt player that fans are looking most forward to seeing this spring is the guy who will be throwing passes to those receivers. Former four-star quarterback Stephen Garcia seems to have gotten his act together after two early run-ins with the law and will bring the type of athleticism and big arm to the position the Gamecocks did not have this past season. While redshirt sophomore quarterback Chris Smelley will have the upper hand entering spring ball, he and Garcia should have a pretty intense battle for the starting quarterback spot. Although Spurrier's passing offense will likely remain the same, it'll be interesting to see what he adds to the playbook to take full advantage of Garcia's athleticism in the running game. While there is no question Garcia can improvise and make plays, the thing that will make or break his chance to be the starting quarterback will be his ability to play within the system. Can Garcia learn to read the defense, take his drop, and fire to the open man?
Vying for a chance to protect whoever is playing quarterback will be South Carolina-natives Quintin Richardson and Kyle Nunn. Both Richardson and Nunn needed to redshirt this year, but both should benefit a ton early in their career from the extra year of development. Richardson could potentially see time early next season when starting left tackle Jamon Meredith has to sit out the team's first two games as terms he agreed to in order to receive an extra year of eligibility. The former four-star high school tackle is the type of athletic body that any solid passing offense needs to protect the quarterback's blind side from the standout pass rushers most SEC teams have at defensive end now days.
Nunn, whose father is 6-8 and grew until he was 21-years old, is currently 6-6 and has the perfect frame to be USC's right tackle of the future. Depending on if returning starter Heath Batchelor stays at right guard or moves back to right tackle, that spot could be up for grabs in the spring as well. If Nunn has a good offseason then his frame and athleticism should allow him to find himself on the South Carolina two-deep earlier rather than later.
The forgotten man who redshirted this year is junior running back Bobby Wallace. Wallace missed the year after suffering a shoulder injury early in fall practice. The shifty runner has shown signs during his limited playing time in the first three years of his career. With Cory Boyd graduating, Wallace will have the chance to compete with Mike Davis, Brian Maddox, and the incoming freshmen for playing time as a change-of-pace scat-back.
While many of the players from South Carolina's highly ranked class of 2007 played during their freshman years, fans should really start to see the fruits of the class come to bear starting next year. Many players from that class will push upperclassmen to perform harder, and if they don't, will take their spots. Despite going 6-6 this season, USC is still just a few key players away from making a legitimate run at the SEC Championship. Many of those key players will likely come from the 2007 class.
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