Window wide open for Gamecocks' receivers

Spurrier continues to praise Shamier Jeffery's offseason

jkendall@thestate.comFebruary 11, 2013 

Shamier Jeffery

MELISSA HARMON — Special to GoGamecocks

South Carolina’s 2013 recruiting class came and went last week without the addition of a wide receiver.

That means it’s time for the Gamecocks’ resident pass catchers to bring their game up this offseason, coach Steve Spurrier said.

“This spring will be a wonderful opportunity for those young wide receivers who haven’t done much here yet,” Spurrier said. “It’ll be an interesting spring for all those receivers.”

The Gamecocks expect to return Bruce Ellington, Damiere Byrd, Nick Jones, Shaq Roland, K.J. Brent, Shamier Jeffery, and Kwinton Smith at wide receiver. Ellington, who has indicated he is considering returning to basketball full-time, is the leading returning receiver with 40 catches for 600 yards last season.

Jeffery, the younger brother of former standout Alshon Jeffery, has yet to make an impact at South Carolina, but there are reasons to believe that could be about to change, Spurrier said.

“Shamier has had a change in attitude,” Spurrier said. “He’s been going to everything on time, hustling. He looks like he wants to play.”

Byrd, who caught 14 passes for 366 yards last year, is competing with the Gamecocks track team. Last month, he won the 60-meter dash at the Hokie Invitational with a personal-best time of 6.66 seconds. The track team schedule runs through May, but Spurrier made it clear this week he expects Byrd to keep up with his football skills.

“He needs to catch a whole bunch of passes this spring also, see if we can get him ready to be a full-time wide receiver,” Spurrier said.

The Gamecocks entered the recruiting season feeling like they had enough wide receivers on the team that they didn’t have to sign one, although wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said that plan predated Ace Sanders’ last-minute decision to enter the NFL Draft.

“We targeted a couple early, but said we weren’t going to take an average player,” said Spurrier Jr., who also is the Gamecocks recruiting coordinator. “If we had a chance to take a great one, we were going to do that. If not, we didn’t feel we needed one. We feel pretty good about the group we have, and going into next year we feel we can sign two or three great ones.”

Ready to work

Quarterback Connor Mitch is one of three players in the 21-member signing class who already has enrolled and will participate in spring practice. Offensive linemen D.J. Park and defensive back Ronnie Martin are the others.

“I saw (Mitch) out on the field as I looked out my window (Wednesday) and (Tuesday),” Spurrier said. “He’s out throwing about every day. It seems like he has grown a little bit. He’s a good 6-3. He’s a young man that really likes football and really likes throwing it around.”

Mitch, a three-star prospect from Raleigh, will enter spring practice behind Connor Shaw, Dylan Thompson and Brendan Nosovitch on the depth chart.

“There’s a chance Connor Mitch may be redshirted, but he’s fine with that,” Spurrier said. “Nosovitch is a player we redshirted last year that we believe is going to be a very good player also.”

Mitch threw for 4,661 yards and 63 touchdowns as a senior. He threw nine touchdowns passes, one short of a national record, in one game last season.

“I really like the way he throws the ball,” CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “I think he got kind of overlooked.”

Star power

Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney was a recruiting draw for the Gamecocks this season, Spurrier Jr. said.

“Certainly, like all great players, people know who he is,” Spurrier Jr. said. “Any time you are at a basketball game with recruits, they all just see his presence. You kind of recognize how important he is, how important football is here, how much of an impact you could make coming into the SEC and being a great player. He’s a special guy to have around.”

Running back rotation

Four-star running back David Williams will get a chance to compete for playing time in the fall, Spurrier said. Williams rushed for 1,904 yards and 23 touchdowns as a senior.

“We are high on him,” Spurrier said. “We like Brandon Wilds and Mike Davis, some other backs that here, but David should be able to come in and compete for playing time.”

South Carolina’s coaches have made it clear that signee Larenz Bryant will be a defensive player, but Lemming likes Bryant at running back, too.

“When I saw him, I thought he could be an All-American at running back or linebacker,” Lemming said.

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