The South Carolina football team returns a pair of players at one position who combined to average 20 yards every time they touched the ball, and scored every third time they got the ball in their hands. You might be surprised by which players own those gaudy numbers.
Try tight ends Rory Anderson and Jerell Adams, whose big-play ability should be showcased more frequently this season with Justice Cunningham no longer on campus.
Anderson, a 6-foot-5, 242-pound junior from Powder Springs, Ga., and Adams, a 6-6, 237-pound sophomore from Pinewood, combined to catch 18 passes for 361 yards, an average of 20.1 yards per catch, and six touchdowns last season. Anderson, who hauled in 14 of those passes for 271 yards, believes the duo can make a bigger splash this season.
Weve pushed coach (Steve) Spurrier to actually get us some more balls, Anderson said. Were able to do some things that receivers can do as well. Weve got a lot of size and athletic ability at the tight end position.
Spurrier understands they have the ability to push their way into the offensive game plans.
Theyre good players, and theyll work the inside lanes, he said. Theyll have plenty of opportunities.
Andersons athleticism allowed him to break free for five scoring receptions last season, two against East Carolina and one each against Missouri, Georgia and Tennessee, with the longest a 51-yarder against the Pirates. He doesnt see why he cant put up much bigger numbers since Cunningham had 23 catches a year ago.
But he also knows that he must replace the other things that Cunningham did.
I feel like Im ready and more prepared than Ive been since I got here. Its my year to step up and be a leader for this team, he said. I can stretch the field. I can also block, which a lot of people have underestimated. In the offseason, Ive been working on polishing my game up.
Adams was less of a factor as a freshman, playing in nine games and starting none. But he made his presence felt with four catches for 90 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception in a win against Arkansas. Hes definitely eyeing a more significant role.
Last year, I didnt get that much playing time because we had a senior in front of us, Adams said. At the same time, I do feel that I showed everybody what I had and gave them a little taste of it. This year, hopefully, Ill get more playing time and show them what I really can do.
The duo notes they have a good rapport on and off the field. As excited as they are about their expanded roles, theyre just as pumped about doing their part to continue the momentum of back-to-back 11-win seasons.
Were working together and working hard, just making sure everybodys on the same page understanding all the plays and every assignment. Were getting ready for Game 1, Anderson said.
He likes the experience of quarterbacks Connor Shaw and Dylan Thompson as well as the talent level of the offense, which must replace the star power of the departed Marcus Lattimore and Ace Sanders.
We have two extremely good quarterbacks. Both have real strong arms and have worked hard in the offseason, Anderson said. Everything is set in place to do what we need to do. Weve got a lot of returners, and I feel like weve got players ready to step in and fill those roles.
But the tight ends also cant wait to do their part. Receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said the pair have a chance to have a huge impact on this offense, and that comes as no surprise to Adams.
I feel like well have a big year between me and him, Adams said. Well get a rotation going with a lot of reps, and well run a lot of two tight-end sets. It should be a good year for the tight ends.
Steve Spurrier Jr.