Josh Kendall

Gamecocks hope wide receivers ready to contribute early

Wide receiver Bryan Edwards takes part in a signing ceremony for all of South Carolina's midyear signees
Wide receiver Bryan Edwards takes part in a signing ceremony for all of South Carolina's midyear signees gmelendez@thestate.com

There were lots of wide receivers to choose from in the signing class of 2016 and at times in the last two months, it seemed like South Carolina talked to them all. In the end, the Gamecocks signed five wide receivers on Wednesday, the most they have inked in one class since 2009.

“We need to replenish a little bit there,” first-year coach Will Muschamp said. “We need to get that going.”

Wednesday’s haul nearly doubled South Carolina’s depth at the position as the Gamecocks had only seven scholarship wide receivers on the roster before this signing class, and only three of those – Terry Googer, D.J. Neal and Deebo Samuel – have caught a collegiate pass.

That statistic sounds ominous for the 2016 season, but it made for a nice recruiting pitch. South Carolina’s top three pass catchers from the 2015 season – wide receiver Pharoh Cooper, tight end Jerell Adams and running back Brandon Wilds -- are gone. The leading returning wide receiver is Samuel, who has 12 career receptions.

Recruits “watch the games, and they see the opportunity,” Muschamp said. “They all were told, if they are good enough, they will play.”

The highest-rated player in the group is Conway native Bryan Edwards, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound four-star prospect who had more than 2,500 career receiving yards and was a finalist for the state’s Mr. Football award.

“He could have gone anywhere he wanted to in the country and stayed here at the state school,” Muschamp said. “He’s a guy who can vertically stretch the field and go get the ball, and he’s a bigger receiver.”

Chavis Dawkins, a 6-2, 200-pound three-star prospect out of Byrnes High School, also fits the “bigger receiver” mold.

“He comes from a great program,” Muschamp said. “He knows about winning, he knows about practice habits. He knows what he needs to do to be successful.”

The other three wide receiver signees were all “flips” – players who originally had committed to another school before changing their minds and signing with South Carolina. Korey Banks (a North Carolina commit at one time) is a 5-11, 173-pound, three-star prospect from Tyrone, Ga., who “really has good top end speed,” Muschamp said.

Randrecous Davis, a 5-10, 173-pound, three-star prospect out of Atlanta who was once committed to Georgia, “can really change the game with the ball in his hands,” Muschamp said and could return kicks for the Gamecocks. Kiel Pollard (who originally pledged to Arkansas) is a 6-foot, 225-pound, three-star prospect out of Moultrie, Ga., who had late interest from Alabama.

Pollard’s high school coach, Rush Probst at Colquitt County High School, predicted Wednesday that Pollard would make several schools sorry they didn’t recruit him harder.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever had an offensive player with a skill set like Kiel Pollard,” Probst said at the school’s signing day ceremony. “I think the University of Georgia has made a crucial mistake. Guess what? They are going to have to play against him the next four years. I’m proud of him sticking to his guns and his heart.

“At the end of the day, they got a great player.”

The Gamecocks are hoping they got five great players.

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp discusses the Gamecocks' 2016 signing class.

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