A year ago, the hope for South Carolina football was to bring wide receiver Deebo Samuel back and let good things happen. That certainly took place as he posted 882 yards and 13 total touchdowns, but now he’s off to the NFL.
USC returns Bryan Edwards, a top target since he arrived on campus, and Shi Smith, who broke into the lineup as a freshman and took a big step forward last season. The team loses its top two tight ends, though neither was a high-usage target in the passing game.
So with a few familiar faces and the fruits of some recruiting cycles, there are a few possible scenarios that could unfold.
1. Four guys step up
The Gamecocks’ base is going to be Smith and Edwards, two of the top three receivers from last season. And the team has a pair of players who seem destined to be the next two options if everything goes to plan. OrTre Smith was a starter in 2017 before a knee injury knocked him out last year. Tight end Kiel Pollard was already the team’s No. 4 pass catcher, even while splitting time with K.C. Crosby. Both should fill in and try to take targets Samuel got last year.
Best case scenario stat: Four guys notch between 35 and 65 catches. South Carolina’s most balanced recent year was probably 2017, and that year had some key targets go down with injuries.
2. The two-man game
South Carolina knows it has at least two highly competent SEC receivers in Edwards and Smith. Barring injury, they should be the focal points of the passing game, and then the question becomes how much. Perhaps things are a bit more balanced, or perhaps the Gamecocks just ride their horses.
Best case scenario stat: Bryan Edwards gets the 813 yards and well over the 43 catches he needs to set USC’s career marks in both. Shi makes another jump into the 700s in terms of yardage and 50s in terms of catches.
3. New faces deliver
USC has a lot of options with interesting players who’ve shown promise or drawn praise from coaches. That includes more seasoned players such as Chad Terrell, maybe veterans Chavis Dawkins or Randrecous Davis, someone off a freshman season such as Josh Vann and Darius Rush or a true freshman in Keveon Mullins or Xavier Legett. The tight ends have the likes of former basketball player Evan Hinson and freshmen Traevon Kenion and Keshawn Toney. Some might step forward into more prominent role.
Best case scenario stat: One player who has yet to post 25 catches does so and does it with a solid yards per catch average.