South Carolina football already has plenty of pieces at wide receiver.
That didn’t stop the Gamecocks from adding a four-star and U.S. Army All-American receiver into the mix.
Josh Vann, a product of Tucker High School in Georgia, won’t arrive in Columbia until after spring semester. He’s part of an influx of talented receivers USC has brought in the past three recruiting cycles, and he’s got one more subtle attribute that has his future coach excited.
“He’s one of those guys that, he’s longer than his size shows off,” USC offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon said. “Really long, really big hands, has great ball skills, really good body control. He has the quickness and the speed to kind of go with it. So we’re excited about his skills.”
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Vann stands at only 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, a build that might make him more of a slot receiver than outside threat (though that height is right on the border). As a senior, he caught 46 passes for 867 yards and 12 touchdowns with 141 yards and a touchdown rushing as part of a 12-2 squad. Those numbers might have even been depressed a little in an offense that often deployed heavy power running formations.
McClendon said coming from the atmosphere at Tucker helped prepare him for the little things on the next level, such as how to practice and being team-first players. It’s the same program that produced Gamecocks defensive end Aaron Sterling, who saw a decent amount of time as a true freshman, and offensive tackle signee Dylan Wonnum.
But because Vann isn’t there in spring, there will be a few things to pick up.
“Obviously he’s got to learn what to do, learn how to do it and learn how to practice,” McClendon said. “The biggest thing about Josh is he loves football.”
Outside the natural transition to the next level, the biggest impediment to quick playing time might be the aforementioned glut at the receiver position. USC returns three players who started as true freshmen in the past two seasons – Bryan Edwards, Shi Smith, OrTre Smith – who are all underclassmen.
Then there’s Deebo Samuel, easily the team’s most dynamic play-maker, coming off the injury that kept him in school for another year.
Shi Smith, who had 409 yards and three touchdowns as an opening day starter in 2017, is the top option in the slot, and likely the player most in the way of Vann getting snaps next season. But USC’s staff hasn’t shown hesitation to play talented first-year players and has a philosophy about that.
“I tell guys, I don’t recruit backups,” McClendon said. “I don’t recruit anybody to come here and back anybody up. How it works out when you get here, you guys duke that out on the practice field.”