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Spring shoes to fill: South Carolina

Everybody knows the Head Ball Coach likes to play pitch and catch. Finding another catcher or two will be paramount if the Gamecocks are going to do that next season.

OUT: WR Alshon Jeffery. Even in a supposedly “down” year, Jeffery caught eight touchdown passes and made the play that sent the Gamecocks on their way to a 30-13 win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl last season. Jeffery commanded so much attention when he was on the field that it helped the entire offense even when he wasn’t catching passes. He was the ultimate weapon down around the goal line with his 6-foot-4 frame and superb leaping ability. And while not a burner, he was fast enough and won his share of footraces to the goal line. His sophomore season was so monstrous with 88 catches and 1,517 receiving yards that the natural reaction this past season was to say he had an off year. The reality is that receivers like Jeffery don’t come around that often, and now that he’s decided to take his shot at the NFL a year early, the Gamecocks will miss him dearly.

IN: Ace Sanders, DeAngelo Smith, D.L. Moore, Damiere Byrd, Bruce Ellington or Shaq Roland. The 5-7 Sanders is about nine inches shorter than Jeffery and not nearly as big a target, but Sanders has really had an impressive spring. He’s especially dangerous on the quick slants and has made a ton of plays after the catch. He’s clearly the Gamecocks’ top receiver at this point and might be their Offensive MVP of the spring. He’s going to need help, though, and that’s where it gets interesting. Roland, one of the top receiver prospects in the country last year, doesn’t arrive until the summer. He’ll get every opportunity to show what he can do early. Smith and Moore have been around for a while. They combined for 11 catches last season. If they’re going to make their move, this is the time to do it. Byrd has a chance to bring that speed element to the group. He served an NCAA suspension during the first part of last season, but is a guy who can stretch the field. Ellington should also be better and more consistent in his second season. It’s wide open after Sanders. We’ll see how it shakes out come fall.