Alshon Jeffery made a surprisingly bold proclamation before the season. “I’m trying to get myself prepared to be the best receiver ever,” the USC sophomore receiver said.
Jeffery is a man of few words, so when he made that statement in front a horde of reporters, there was belief among many that it was not just idle talk.
The statement will be at the forefront the next couple of weeks as Jeffery prepares to match his talents with those of a couple of the SEC’s top receivers Jeffery will see how he stacks up with Georgia’s A.J. Green on Saturday — if Green is cleared to play by the NCAA. A few weeks later, Jeffrey will be on the sideline opposite Alabama’s Julio Jones.
Surely, those two matchups will go a long way in determining the SEC’s best receiver.
“I don’t worry too much about them,” Jeffery said. “I just try and work hard to be the best that I can be.”
Since breaking into the starting lineup against Alabama last season, Jeffery has done a lot to be considered among the league’s best. He was named to the coaches’ preseason All-SEC second team — behind Green and Jones, both juniors — after a season in which he had 46 catches for 763 yards and six touchdowns.
He put up those numbers despite not being much of a factor in the first five games, when he totaled five receptions. Over the final eight games, he had 41 catches to finish in the top 10 in the SEC in receptions per game.
Jeffery torched Southern Miss in the season opener Thursday for seven catches for 106 yards, the fourth 100-yard receiving game of his career.
Stephen Garcia is impressed by what he has seen out of Jeffery. In eight starts together, Jeffery quickly has become Garcia’s favorite target.
“It’s very nice,” Garcia said of having the 6-foot-4 Jeffery. “Just throw the ball up there, and he’ll come down with it. You’ve seen that the past year or so. It’s pretty nice to have him on the team. We have a bunch of receivers like that, but he’s pretty special.”
The shadows of Green and Jones loom large. Green has been the Bulldogs’ leading receiver the past two years, while Jones suffered through a sophomore slump last season but still is considered among the best in the country.
The battle between Green and Jeffery would be an intriguing subplot to Saturday’s SEC opener at Williams-Brice Stadium — if it transpires.
Green, a Summerville native, missed Georgia’s season-opening 55-7 victory against Louisiana-Lafayette because of an NCAA investigation over alleged improper contact with agents in the offseason. His availability Saturday is unclear, and Bulldogs coach Mark Richt is not commenting.
Don’t expect that to affect the play of Jeffery, a former Calhoun County High standout. Considering the emergence of several receivers in the offseason and the play of Garcia, plus an added emphasis on the running game, he expects the Gamecocks to be a much better offensive unit this season.
Jeffery is doing his part. He is usually the last to leave the USC practice field, and the receivers usually stay afterward for extra work. Jeffery said the receivers and quarterbacks worked for countless hours during the summer.
“Our goal is to be the most explosive offense in the SEC and in the country,” Jeffery said. “We’re going to do whatever it takes for us to win.”