The Daily Gamecock

Young receivers ready to step up, complement Cooper


College football is here, and it wouldn’t be the beloved sport that it is without a key player in the offensive position: the wide receiver.

Injuries have sidelined a few receiver hopefuls, but there are still plenty of players wishing to see time on the field this season.

Freshman Jerad Washington suffered a broken leg in Sunday night’s practice. The Jacksonville, Florida native is expected to miss the remainder of the season; he is a third-team wide receiver for the Gamecocks. Redshirt freshman Shaq Davidson will also miss this season due to surgeries on both knees. One surgery will repair a ligament torn in practice and the other surgery is to address his troublesome knee. This Gaffney native will return to the team as a double redshirt according to head coach Steve Spurrier.

Junior Pharoh Cooper, redshirt freshman Deebo Samuel and redshirt senior Carlton Heard will start at wide receiver on Thursday.

This month the Coaches Preseason All-SEC First Team was announced and Cooper found his place in three sections. He was given first-team honors as a wide receiver, all-purpose back and the return specialist. He is returning this season after finishing third in the SEC with 69 receptions.

He also finished second in receiving yards with 1,136 and in receiving yards per game with 87.4. In his 24 career games, Cooper has started 13 with a total of 402 rushing yards. Spurrier went through extensive practices over the summer and knows which players he will start come Thursday.

“A lot of players had exceptional summer workouts. Pharoh [Cooper], Brandon Shell, T.J. Gurley, Jerell Adams had an excellent summer,” said Spurrier. “We don't have any loud guys, so much. I sort of like the guys who lead by example. We've got several older players that have really demonstrated excellent leadership.”

Cooper is a returning player for the Gamecocks and knows he wants more out of this season than last, not only for himself but for the team and for Spurrier.

“We're not expected to go 7-6 here at South Carolina,” Cooper said. “ We know we have to have a better year than last year, which we will.”

Next to Cooper, Samuel will make his debut Thursday and is expected to perform well at the X-receiver position. Although he has not received any playing time at the college level, Samuel managed to make a name for himself in high school. He broke his school record with a total of 53 touchdowns in his career. In his senior year alone, he had 61 receptions for 1,184 yards and was named the High School Sports Report Class AAA Offensive Player of the Year. Samuel is most excited to actually get in the game this year and, hopefully, make some good plays.

“I don’t feel like I have anything to prove,” Samuel said. “I mean, we’re all out here grinding and getting better. You make plays when the ball comes to you. When the ball is in someone else’s hands, you have to go block and help them out just as well as they help you. All of us here have a chance to make big plays.”

The receivers will have to step up with first-year starter commanding the offense.