Gamecocks turn to Roland, Cooper to fill Ellington’s void

jkendall@thestate.comMarch 12, 2014 

South Carolina’s first practice of spring looked a lot like the end of the 2013 football season for wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr.

Junior Shaq Roland and sophomore Pharoh Cooper are at the top of the depth chart; senior Damiere Byrd is sidelined by a knee injury, and everyone else is fighting for position.

The only glaring difference is the absence of Bruce Ellington, last season’s leading receiver with 49 catches for 775 yards and eight touchdowns. Roland and Cooper will be looked to first to fill that void.

Roland led South Carolina last season with an 18.2-yards-per-catch average. He totaled 455 yards on 25 catches and scored five touchdowns.

“He recognizes his opportunity, and he understands how important it is for him to make the most of his spring and summer and come into next year as a guy who can have a big year,” Spurrier Jr. said. “He knows that, and we are going to stress that upon him before that first game.”

Despite catching three passes for 54 yards last season, Cooper enters the season as a starter on the spring practice depth chart.

“Pharoh is a talented young man that we think a lot of that does have a very bright future here,” Spurrier Jr. said. “For him to come from a guy who wanted to be a (cornerback) to playing receiver, returning kicks and punts and playing quarterback at a high level, he has certainly proved that he can play. We are going to try to get him on the field and get the ball in his hands as much as we can.”

Byrd was the team’s second-leading wide receiver last year with 33 catches for 575 yards, but he will be mostly sidelined this spring after suffering a knee injury during bowl practice. The Gamecocks don’t expect him to lose any of his speed due to the injury, Spurrier Jr. said.

“He’s still the fastest guy on the team,” Spurrier Jr. said. “He’s recovering well but still not doing much. He’s got a chance to have a big year, too.”

Senior Nick Jones, who had 27 catches for 281 yards last season, enters the year with “an opportunity to stand up and make a name for himself,” Spurrier Jr. said.

The same could be said of junior Shamier Jeffery who at times last season appeared ready to break into the regular rotation but finished with six catches for 32 yards.

“He is another guy who needs to have a good spring and prove he is ready to go play,” Spurrier Jr. said. “He’s a talented guy that just needs to get a little confidence.”

South Carolina’s spring practice wide receiver depth chart

WR

Jr. Shaq Roland 6-1, 185

Jr. Shamier Jeffery 6-1, 203 - OR - Jr. Kane Whitehurst 5-11, 180

WR

So. Pharoh Cooper 5-11, 200

Jr. K.J. Brent 6-4, 190

So. Jody Fuller 5-11 207

WR

Sr. Damiere Byrd 5-9 166

Sr. Nick Jones 5-7 174

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