It seems like yesterday that K.J. Brent the newcomer was making a positive impression and in the mix to play as a true freshman.
The wide receiver from Waxhaw, N.C., turned heads early in August 2011 along with then-freshman Damiere Byrd. Brent ended up redshirting in 2011, then played every game in 2012 on special teams.
Now in his third year at South Carolina, Brent is a redshirt sophomore hoping this spring helps him break through as a pass-catching threat for the Gamecocks.
“I am doing my best out here this spring to help the team in any way I can,” he said. “It feels like I’ve been here longer than three years. Time flies when you're playing football here.”
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Brent was the class of 2011’s first commitment and signed with South Carolina along with Byrd and Shamier Jeffery.
He played in all 13 games of the Gamecocks’ 2012 season as a member of the kickoff and punt return teams. He also caught three passes for 28 yards.
Brent is behind Bruce Ellington this spring at one of the outside receiver spots.
“He needs to have a good spring,” receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said. “We’re rotating him around. He’s going to get some opportunities to play.”
Brent looks back on his redshirt season as a positive move. It was a chance to grow physically and mentally, he said, and he had more time with the playbook.
Last year on special teams was equally a good experience, he said.
In his second spring, he feels better prepared for the challenge of competing for playing time. Brent had two catches for 27 yards in last week’s scrimmage.
“I feel a lot more confident with the playbook,” he said. “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.”
Brent’s weight has topped 190 pounds. At 6-foot-4, he and Kwinton Smith are the tallest scholarship receivers on the team.
Brent is a regular on the honor roll and one of the smartest players on the football team. He was a Harold White GPA Award winner during the 2012 Garnet and Black Spring Game.
The formula to making a good impression isn’t complicated, he said: Think fast. Move fast. Don’t mess up. Most importantly, catch the ball.
Spring football is important for all receivers, Spurrier Jr. said, especially for someone like Brent who has two years in the system.
“If you’re a guy that’s been here a couple of years and you know what to do, you recognize that this is a chance to go out and perform well,” Spurrier said. “He’s getting his opportunity. We’ll find out how well he’ll make the most of it.”