Highlighting the Top WR Corps in America – South Carolina


This upcoming season, I will highlight and scout the top WR groups from schools across the FBS in a new article series. Some of these players will be draft-eligible in 2019, but the groups will not be limited to draft-eligible players. The purpose of this series is to get a head start on analyzing some of the potentially dominant passing attacks for the 2018 college football season, while being able to get early looks into prospects, anticipating their entry into the NFL Draft. 

The South Carolina Gamecocks had a successful 2017 campaign that saw them finish 9-4, defeating Michigan in the Outback Bowl and earning their best record since 2013. Will Muschamp’s squad returns many key pieces, and they look to build off of the strong finish from last year into potential title contention this season.

The juice behind their impressive season was their offensive playmakers, namely wide receiver Bryan Edwards and emerging quarterback Jake Bentley. Additionally, South Carolina had two freshman wide receivers who produced well and have long-term potential in Shi Smith and OrTre Smith. Despite losing electric junior playmaker Deebo Samuel for a large portion of the season, the offense barely skipped a beat, and Samuel will return for his redshirt senior season. This group of four wide receivers may be the deepest group in the country, and with Jake Bentley back for 2018, their potential ceiling is sky-high.

Bryan Edwards (6’3, 215 pounds) has shown the potential traits of a dominant outside receiving threat when he reaches the NFL, combining an ability to snap his routes off quickly with elite body control. His ability at the catchpoint is his ultimate weapon, being able to win contested catches when necessary. When he’s able to catch passes while remaining upright, he shows the intensity and contact balance to break tackles and pick up extra yardage. With his physical and athletic profile, a dominant season could be on the horizon for Edwards in 2018, as well as the potential to be a day 1 or day 2 selection in the NFL Draft.

Deebo Samuel (6’0, 210 pounds) will return for his senior season after being injured for much of 2017. Samuel only played in the first three games last year before suffering a season-ending injury. In those games, he returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown in the first two and had a 65-yard catch and run touchdown on the first play of the third game. He totaled six touchdowns in three games, showing off his electric playmaking ability and elusiveness in the open field. In 2016, he accumulated six rushing touchdowns on just 15 attempts, adding to his versatility. Though he will eventually enter the NFL at a slightly advanced age, Samuel’s dynamic ability will surely entice teams early on in the Draft.

OrTre Smith (6’4, 220 pounds) and Shi Smith (5’10, 190 pounds) are both rising sophomores that are in a way, younger versions of Edwards and Samuel. OrTre Smith has incredible physicality for his age and has shown the ability to climb the ladder over smaller defensive backs.

Shi Smith is an elusive athlete who possesses the vertical speed and route running nuance to stretch the field from the slot. Both players produced roughly 30 receptions to go with three touchdowns in their freshman seasons. Though they may play a secondary role to Edwards and Samuel for this upcoming season, they have solid long-term potential, especially if Jake Bentley is to return after the 2018 season.

With four potential NFL-caliber receiving options and an ascending quarterback, South Carolina could have a dominant passing attack in 2018. Additionally, their wide receiver group has rare top-to-bottom talent for college football, as they might be the deepest unit in the country. With an early week two test against the Georgia Bulldogs, we will find out quickly just how high the Gamecocks’ receiving corps could carry their program.