Gaffney High head coach Dan Jones approached Shaq Davidson last week with some advice as his star player packed his bags for the Shrine Bowl.
“I told him, when the receivers line up to run routes, jump up front,” Jones said. “When you’re at a Shrine Bowl and they have all the all-stars, coaches like the guys that jump up there. He’s as good as any of the athletes there. I just want him to step forward and show what he can do.”
Davidson, a four-star prospect and the top-rated class of 2014 commitment for South Carolina, begins his transition and development this week from do-it-all high-school star to wide receiver.
Humble and unassuming off the field yet highly competitive on it, he’s said he’s listening to his coach’s guidance as he practices at a position he hasn’t played full time since his sophomore season at Gaffney.
“I’m working on my route running and my hands,” Davidson said this week after Shrine Bowl practice. “I’m just trying to work on my concentration more, looking the ball in and then holding onto it.”
Davidson held the ball a lot at Gaffney, leading the team at quarterback in most games the past two seasons. He started his junior year at receiver, but coaches liked his playmaking ability and found they couldn’t get him the ball as often as they wanted.
“We knew he had to have it 20 to 25 times a game, and it wasn’t happening,” Jones recalled. “We put him under center and he got it about 60 times a game, and our season changed. We were 1-3. We put him at quarterback and we ended up being 12-3. When he touched it every time, it makes a difference.”
Davidson led the Indians a state championship in 2012 as a quarterback, but the Gamecocks next year and the SC Shrine Bowl team this week won’t ask him to touch the ball each snap.
He is one of four receivers on the Sandlappers’ roster, a list that also includes fellow Gamecocks commitment Tyshun Samuel, a standout from Chapman High.
In addition to his primary role at receiver, coaches are giving Davidson the ball out of the backfield and using him in the return game.
“He’s had very little coaching at receiver,” Jones said. “I’m sure the coaches will tell him what routes to run. The big thing with him is to get him the ball. He’s hard to tackle in space.”
An ACL tear in 2011 ended his sophomore season early, but the ability and athleticism he showed on 29 catches for 683 yards and eight touchdowns were enough to attract attention from major colleges.
South Carolina offered Davidson that season, and other schools followed suit in 2012 and 2013. He favored the Gamecocks throughout the process, committing to USC in July over offers from Auburn, Florida State, Clemson and others.
Davidson is healthy after a knee sprain ended his senior year early. He believes the Shrine Bowl and the upcoming U.S. Army All-American Bowl will give him a good foundation for playing receiver in college. He has no set performance goals this week, only to see the S.C. team play well.
He also claimed no rust at the receiver position after his first all-star week practices. Playing quarterback for so long is a boost in making the transition, he said.
“It helps you learn where the receiver is supposed to be, and the routes and the timing of the routes,” Davidson said. “I like playing quarterback because I get to have the ball in my hands all the time, but I feel better playing wide receiver.”