Randrecous Davis reached one of the greatest heights a first-year college football player can attain. Then he had it all taken away.
Now he’s back.
When injuries swept through South Carolina’s receiving group early in 2016, Davis, a 5-foot-10 freshman, found his redshirt torn off in the season’s second game and his name in the starting lineup in the third. And after that afternoon in Williams-Brice against East Carolina, he didn’t take the field again.
“It humbled me,” Davis said. “I mean, I was already humbled. It humbled me even more, made me able to stay grounded, able to work through things because everything is not going to go right in a game.”
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A hamstring injury sidelined him, and once Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards asserted themselves, Davis was in position to apply for a medical redshirt.
He opened South Carolina’s fall camp as a slot receiver and is the most experienced one who isn’t also working on the outside or playing tight end.
It’s a long way from the end of last season, when he wasn’t around practice much and instead was getting treatment.
“It’s hard,” Davis said, “being able to watch all your brothers and teammates on the field, and everybody’s working. And, of course, I want to be out there, too, and I know the talents and the assets I bring to the team, but it’s just hard. It’s hard watching.”
It’s a feeling Gamecocks football coach Will Muschamp knows well.
When he was a freshman at Georgia, a broken collarbone cost him his first season. He was only a walk-on safety, not someone who got a taste of starting, but that year was a challenging one.
“You don’t really feel a part,” Muschamp said. “You don’t feel a part of the organization. You’re a part of everything, but you’re not a part. You’re not a part of what the team is going through. That’s extremely, especially for a young player, frustrating.”
Muschamp went on to be a team captain with the Bulldogs under coach Ray Goff.
Davis said he just stuck with things through last fall and the offseason. He’s focused on his routes and coming in and out of breaks. He had 1,024 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior at Mays High in Atlanta and could be poised for an impact campaign.
Star receiver Deebo Samuel could spend time in the slot, and freshman Shi Smith, considered one of the fastest players on the team, is also practicing there. But Davis is the only somewhat experienced full-time player there, and after going with two tight ends through most of 2016, USC could use more true receivers there going forward.
In previous editions of Kurt Roper’s offense, smaller slot receivers often developed into top offensive options.
Davis began camp in a noncontact jersey after having fluid removed from his groin. He remains sidelined with what Muschamp on Saturday called a “soft tissue injury.”
For someone who’s only seen action in a couple games, the coaches are intrigued.
“He’s a guy who can help our football team,” Muschamp said. “He’s extremely talented. We’ve got to keep him healthy, and that’s the most important thing, and he understands that. And he’s stayed positive through this. I think, obviously, anytime you face some adversity like this, it helps you grow up a little bit, and certainly I think he has. He’s a young man we’re excited about.”