South Carolina has had a solid tradition of producing high-level wide receivers over the program’s history. By returning for his senior season, Bryan Edwards will have a chance to etch his name all over the school’s record books in 2019. He will find his name beside some former legends, who starred in garnet and black and later on in the NFL. The Gamecocks top ten wide receivers is a list that can match up with playmakers from almost any other program. Today, we look at the Gamecocks top ten receivers in school history
Ranking the Gamecocks Top Ten Wide Receivers
If you ever wanted to verify the credentials of USC’s pass catchers, just ask Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Farve. “Three of the greatest receivers I’ve ever played with are from right here.” the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl-winning gunslinger said while speaking at Will Muschamp‘s coaches clinics in 2017. He was referring to former NFL teammates Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks, and Sidney Rice. That is high praise from one of the most accomplished passers in pro football history. Edwards will look to climb this list with a big 2019 and propel himself towards the top of the Gamecocks top ten wide receivers.
10. Jermale Kelly – 1997-2000
Kelly burst onto the scene with 43 catches 618 yards and 10 touchdowns as a freshman. He was a four-year starter in garnet and black but was never able to regain the magic of his first year. After playing in football purgatory for two years while the Gamecocks went 1-21 through the 1998-99 campaigns, he rebounded as a senior. Kelly is one of the few players to be a part of both this program’s darkest days and the beginnings of its revival during the 2000 season. He led the team in receptions, yards, and touchdowns as a senior, as the team won eight games.
- Bryan Edwards – 2016-2018
The senior receiver has a chance to move closer to the top half of this group with a big final year in Columbia. He is currently fifth in catches while ranking ninth in both yards and touchdowns for a career. His numbers have been built on consistent production, but he has yet to have a dominant season. Edwards has a knack for making difficult catches. His most memorable grabs were his improbable touchdown in Athens as a sophomore, and his one-handed grab at Ole Miss as a season ago. Edwards could put his name first across the South Carolina record books with a 1000 season in 2019.
- Robert Brooks – 1988-1991
The Greenwood native was recruited to South Carolina as a running back, but was moved to receiver and named a Freshman All-American in 1988. He made memorable over the shoulder one-handed touchdown grab in a victory over Georgia. Brooks had a productive career in garnet and black. He still ranks in the Gamecocks top ten in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. In 1995 he set a Green Bay Packers record with 1497 yards and also won a Super Bowl as part of the 1996 team. He is also credited with popularizing the famous Lambeau Leap touchdown celebration.
- Zola Davis – 1995-1998
Much like Kelly did in his first season, Davis had a monster freshman year. His 58 grabs and 911 yards were both career bests. He would finish his career second in school history in catches and yards and still remains in the top four in both. Like the two names behind him on this list, his longevity in the South Carolina lineup allowed him to build impressive career numbers. Davis was never able to replicate the production of his freshman season but did rebound for a solid senior season. He finished his career with 17 touchdown receptions.
Dynamic, Explosive, & Versatile
- Deebo Samuel – 2015-2018
It is possible that South Carolina has never had a player who instilled more fear in defenses than Samuel. He was truly a game-changing talent. While some of his receiving numbers don’t match those of the aforementioned players on this list, he impacted so many other areas. His 11 touchdowns as a senior are the second most in program history. He was an electric playmaker, who scored on receptions, rushes, and kick-off returns. Samuel returned an SEC record four kick-offs for touchdowns while in Columbia. If not for injuries, he could be much higher up this list, but either way, he is remembered as one of the most exciting Gamecocks ever. Samuel finished his career with over 3000 total yards and 27 touchdowns on rushes, catches, and returns.
- Pharoh Cooper – 2013-2015
The Havelock, North Carolina native was recruited to South Carolina as a defensive back prospect after playing quarterback in high school. Coach Steve Spurrier recognized his big play abilities and quickly moved him to the offensive side of the ball. Mainly a kick returner and rushing threat as a freshman, he ran for 202 yards and had three total touchdowns. He exploded as a sophomore, becoming one of only four Gamecocks with a 1000 yard season. Cooper set the school record for yards in a game with 233 on 11 grabs against Tennessee. He often took direct snaps out of the backfield as well, with the team looking to get him the ball in as many ways as possible. He also completed 9/16 passes with four resulting in touchdowns. His most famous pass was to Brandon Wilds for a touchdown, sealing a fifth straight victory over rival Clemson.
- Kenny McKinley – 2005-2008
Another successfully converted quarterback, Mckinley left as the program’s all-time leader in receptions and yards. The ultimate possession receiver, he was a constant mismatch for opponents to deal with. His quick feet and sure hands made him ideal for the slot position. He had a knack for getting open and making crucial catches on third downs. The late McKinley still tops the school’s record books with 207 career catches, which ranks seventh in SEC history. He, like Cooper, has a memorable throw that fans often look back on. The Gamecocks ran a wide receiver reverse pass late in a game at Kentucky, and McKinley found quarterback Syvelle Newton for a 22-yard touchdown that sealed an SEC road victory.
- Sidney Rice – 2005-2006
If this Gaffney, South Carolina native had played more than two seasons for the Gamecocks, he would likely be atop this list. Rice is the only player in school history with multiple 1000 yard receiving seasons. He was the perfect weapon for coach Spurrier as he took over the program. His ability to high-point the football and out jump defenders made him a nightmare for opponents, and a dream for the highlight reels. He carried the Gamecocks offense with 11 career 100-yard games. His 23 career receiving touchdowns is still the record at South Carolina. Always a big play threat, he averaged almost 16 yards per reception over two seasons. Rice also came up big when it mattered most, with 100+ yards in both games against Clemson. He also combined for 330 yards on 20 catches in two career bowl appearances.
Big Time Players Make Big Time Plays
- Alshon Jeffery – 2009-2011
There has not been a more physically dominant receiver play at South Carolina than Jeffery. He had the size, strength, and hands to win at the line of scrimmage and one on one down the field. In 2010, he had the program’s best season ever by a wideout. His 88 catches and 1517 yards are school records and rank in the top ten in SEC history. Jeffery’s two signature plays both epitomized his physical presence. In an upset over top-ranked Alabama in 2010, he hauled in a one-handed grab with a defender clinging to his side. He then shook off the would-be tackler and took off for the end zone. His last career play was ripping a 1st half Hail Mary pass away from a Nebraska corner, then extended the ball across to goal line for six. He too has 23 receiving touchdowns, and his school-record 3042 yards are fourth in SEC history.
- Sterling Sharpe – 1983-1987
In the 1980s, the game was not played in the same spread out pass heavy fashion, and teams only played 11 games a season. This means the numbers Sharpe put up while at South Carolina may fall a little short by comparison to more recent players. However, anyone who watched him play knows he belongs near the top of any Gamecocks top ten list. He was a game changer whenever he touched the ball. Sharpe had almost 4000 total yards for Carolina, and scored 24 touchdowns receiving, rushing, on kick-off, and punt returns. He went on to have five 1000 yard seasons and 65 career receiving touchdowns as a seven-year NFL veteran. His combination of physicality and elusiveness was as good as it gets. He could shake a defender out his shoes and run their teammate over on the same play. Sharpe finished his Gamecock career with eight different school records.