Before we get to full fledged bowl previews and predictions, we’re going to look at the team’s season position by position. First, today, is the wide receiver report card the South Carolina Gamecocks football team in 2010.
Discussion: You can’t talk about the receiving corps without talking about Alshon Jeffrey. He was the team’s leading receiver by a large margin. He was the feature receiver who drew national attention and double and triple teams. He exceeded all expectations, and if this grade was based on his performance, there would be no doubt that an A is warranted. But, Alshon Jeffrey is not the entire receiving group, and an A is not the grade.
Before the season, there were three hopes for the receivers. One, Alshon would continue being Alshon and avoid a sophomore slump. Two, Tori Gurley or someone else would materialize as a complement to Jeffrey. Three, Ace Sanders or someone else would emerge as a deep ball threat to stretch the field and loosen the defense.
Alshon cleary avoided the sophomore slump. In fact, he improved on his 2009 receiving numbers. His season is an unqualified success.
The emergence of a second receiving threat was not as successful. Tori Gurley entered the season as the second receiver, and it was hoped that he would play a larger role in the offense. Other than the Vanderbilt game, that never really happened, and it didn’t happen for a variety of reasons.
The first reason it didn’t happen was the emergence of Marcus Lattimore and the running game. With more emphasis on the running game, there weren’t as many passes thrown. A second reason is that Gurley’s blocking was so good, he was often used as a blocker in stead of a receiver. On multiple occasions wide receiver screens or hitches were designed to have Gurley block in stead of catching. D.L. Moore never really emerged, not did Ace Sanders. It could have been because they didn’t get as many balls thrown their way or it could have been because they weren’t getting open. Without a more detailed talk about the playbook, we can’t really tell. It could very well be that a second, complimentary receiver to Jeffrey did not emerge because of factors outside of those receivers’ control.
Third, a true deep ball, home run threat never emerged. In fall practice, Ace Sanders set the crowd abuzz with his speed. Many thought he might be the one to force the safeties deeper, but he was never thrown to with enough frequency to make that a threat. The few times deep balls were tried, they were usually to D.L. Moore, and they were unsuccessful. The lack of early success led to fewer attempts. This area of the game was never fully developed.
Grade: B+ The receiving corps was unable to meet expectations in some areas, but in other areas they far exceeded them. Alshon Jeffrey had the best year of any receiver in school history and is being showered with All-American honors. You could never say receiver was a weakness for this team, and in several games, it was a strength. There was some room for improvement, but overall the receiving corps did an admirable job and gets a B+.
Glancing ahead: Alshon Jeffrey, Tori Gurley, Ace Sanders and D.L. Moore will be back next year, and the addition on some freshman talent should make next year’s receivers even more dangerous than this years. It should be an exciting year with even higher expectations and the possibility of even greater results.