Spring football recap, storylines: Wide receivers, tight ends

GoGamecocks staff reportsApril 16, 2013 

A review and recap of how South Carolina’s wide receivers and tight ends fared this spring (the first in a series of positional reviews of the Gamecocks):

Top performers

Shaq Roland, Shamier Jeffery, Jerell Adams

Spring awards

... Most improved wide receivers: Shaq Roland/Shamier Jeffery

... Most improved wide receivers tight ends: Rory Anderson/Jerell Adams

... Everyday Attitude Award-Offense: K.J. Brent

... Harold White GPA-Offense: Damiere Byrd

... Big Plays – Spring Practice – Offense: Kwinton Smith

... Outback Bowl – Big Play Players-Offense: Bruce Ellington

Projected receiver depth chart

Position 1
1-Shaq Roland (So.)
2-Damiere Byrd (Jr.) - OR - Shamier Jeffery (RS So.)

Position 2
1-Bruce Ellington (Jr.)
2-K.J. Brent (RS So.)
3-Jody Fuller (RS Fr.)

Position 3
1-Nick Jones (RS Jr.)
2-Kwinton Smith (RS Fr.)

Projected tight end depth chart

1-Rory Anderson (Jr.)
2-Jerell Adams (So.)
3-Drew Owens (RS So.)

What we learned

1. Roland and Jeffery will play more in 2013

A centerpiece of the 2012 signing class, Shaq Roland had a quiet freshman campaign with five catches for 80 yards. The Lexington High product and 2011 Mr. Football in South Carolina has improved enough to earn starting consideration in the fall. Meanwhile, Shamier Jeffery caught the eye of Steve Spurrier this offseason for his improved work ethic and dedication to getting better. Jeffery played in three games last year and had no catches. He and Roland each caught four balls in the spring game, with Roland scoring.

2. Adams looks good – again

Jerell Adams stood out during preseason practice last year but couldn’t find a ton of playing time (4-90, 1 TD) behind Justice Cunningham and Rory Anderson. With Cunningham gone, Adams will play alongside Anderson in two-tight end sets. Adams caught five passes for 112 yards and two scores in the spring game. Anderson hauled in two passes for 50 yards.

3. Jones has a chance to keep producing

Nick Jones finished the 2012 season strong, with three of his five career starts coming at the end of the season. Steve Spurrier Jr. said he almost half-apologized for not playing Jones sooner ahead of D.L. Moore. In all, he caught 12 passes for 197 yards in 2012 and could be in line for more targets this year.

Questions moving forward

1. Who will emerge opposite Bruce Ellington?

Ellington is the team’s leading returning receiver and looks as comfortable as ever at the position. Roland and Jeffery are the leading candidates to complement Ellington on the stat sheet. Jones and Damiere Byrd also are in position to make an impact.

2. What about the other receivers?

K.J. Brent, Kwinton Smith and Jody Fuller are all looking to find a role. There aren’t as many mouths to feed as last year, but as every year proves, there are only so many receptions to go around. Fuller had trouble catching the ball at times over the last month, while Brent and Smith had solid springs.

3. Will there be any impact freshmen at the position?

USC signed no receivers or tight ends in its 2013 class. Pharoh Cooper (Havelock, N.C.) and Jasper Sasser (Jacksonville, Fla.) could play receiver if needed but are currently headed to the secondary.

They said it – wide receivers

Steve Spurrier Jr.: “We wanted to develop leadership and try and identify those guys that can play. Finding guys that are tough, guys that can think quick, move quick and play quick. We’ve gotten better and really improved. “

Spurrier Jr.: “The spring is for the young guys to learn how to play. I’ve talked about Shaq Roland. He’s had some sloppy days, but he’s improved and he’s moving quicker. Shamier Jeffery has done well. K.J. Brent had a banged-up shoulder some, but he has played well.”

Shaq Roland: “Each week, I learned something new; the next day, they put in something new. Coming in from high school to college is a tough transition. The speed of the game, I would say that’s the No. 1 thing, everybody is fast out here. But I think this year, I’ll be ready.”

Shamier Jeffery: “Everybody wanted me to come out here and straight play, get on the field, but I had to wait my turn. This year, I am more focused, more positive about everything. I am going to stay focused and keep working hard. Hopefully, I will get a chance to play on the field.”

Bruce Ellington: “It’s the love of the game. I just love doing it. ... Last year, I said some things but this year I’m trying to step up and be a better leader than I was, just go out and do the things I did last year.”

Nick Jones: “It seems like I was just here myself as the young guy. Now being the older guy, it’s fun helping out the younger guys and teaching them. They’re pushing me to maintain my spot too. It’s all good for us.”

Kwinton Smith: “My goal is to be No. 1 on the depth chart at my position. I’m still working for that, learning from the guys ahead of me and see what they do best and try to take from that and add to my game.”

K.J. Brent: “I feel a lot more confident with the playbook. I feel more confident with my body, how I’ve grown. I’m a lot more comfortable on the field. That’s helped a lot with the game speed and how our offense runs. I’ve got a lot to improve on.”

They said it – tight ends

Rory Anderson: “Everybody is stepping it up a notch to be a leader. I feel like I’ve been here for two years now. It’s about my time to step up and be the leader.”

Steve Spurrier: “We’ve got two of the best tight ends around. Jerrell has really come around this spring, and Buster has gained over 30 pounds since he arrived here. Both of them are tough. They don’t shy away from the ball. They block, and they’ve really improved their play.”

Connor Shaw (ESPN): “They run routes like receivers. They can absolutely go and get the ball. You can look forward to seeing them in the fall.”

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