Sometimes the pass seemed a little underthrown. Sometimes the receiver was diving for the ball and couldn’t hold on. And sometimes, it just bounced off their hands.
It’s happened in all sorts of ways, but one thing is clear — the number of dropped passes by South Carolina’s receiving corps so far this year has been the subject of intense scrutiny, and that scrutiny only got worse this past weekend as several Gamecock wideouts couldn’t maintain possession at key points in a 24-10 loss to Kentucky.
After that loss, junior receiver Bryan Edwards shouldered the blame, calling it the worst he’s ever played while at USC. And coach Will Muschamp was hardly forgiving either.
“I can’t catch it for them,” he told reporters. “They’ve got to catch the ball. That’s what they’re on scholarship for. They’ve got to catch the ball.”
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On Tuesday, Muschamp was once again blunt in diagnosing the issue and defending quarterback Jake Bentley, at least somewhat.
“We didn’t throw and catch it very well vs. Kentucky. We’ll call it like it is,” Muschamp said. “It wasn’t all on (Bentley).”
And according to star senior receiver Deebo Samuel, Carolina’s wideouts have been putting in extra work on the issue this week in practice.
“Yesterday, a couple guys got on the JUGS (machine). Today after practice, a few of us were out there,” Samuel said. “It’s really just a focus thing. I would say it was more of us trying to make a play before you catch the ball.”
All that being said, Muschamp also added Tuesday that a lot of his frustration from immediately after Saturday’s game has dissipated, and he has regained some perspective regarding a receiving unit that entered this season with plenty of hype as one of the best in the country.
“I asked Deebo, ‘How many digs have you caught since you’ve been at South Carolina?’ He said a bunch. I said, ‘You dropped one, let’s not get out of hand here,’ ” Muschamp said. “Ol’ Coach Muschamp loses his temper every now and then and says some things he probably shouldn’t say. And I’m wrong. At the end of the day, how many deep balls has Bryan Edwards caught? A bunch. A bunch. And he’s going to continue to catch a bunch.
“Both of them are really good football players and they’re great competitors, and no one hurts more than those guys do. So they’ll get back, get back on the JUGS machine a little bit and iron it out a bit.”