South Carolina is banking much of its wide receiver success this season on several veterans who have been with the program for a long time.
Meanwhile, wide receivers coach Justin Stepp can’t contain his excitement as he waits for a pair of December signers who weren’t among the first seven registrants to join the program in January.
Landon Samson was one of the steepest risers all season in the 247Sports Composite and finished the 2022 cycle as the No. 419 ranked prospect, 59th among wide receivers. The 6-foot, 174-pound rookie played in one of the toughest high school regions in the country for longtime powerhouse Southlake (Texas) Carroll where he totaled 132 receptions for 2,225 yards with 29 touchdowns during his career.
Samson had offers from Baylor, Nebraska, Utah, Colorado, TCU and SMU, but Stepp’s ties to the Southwest with former assistant jobs with SMU and Arkansas no doubt played a role in guiding of Samson further south.
“Landon comes from one of the best high school programs in the country,” Stepp said. “His head coach, Riley Dodge, has played at this level, coached (graduated assistant) at this level and does a great job with these kids. That’s the only thing about having a kid at this level. in Texas, I’m I’m not saying it’s the SEC, obviously, but he played a lot of really good football.
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Stepp went on to say that Samson is “very smart and works very hard. He’s going to have to earn everything he earns when he gets here, but if I didn’t think he could do it, I wouldn’t have it. recruited.”
Another player Stepp can’t contain his excitement about his summer arrival on campus is State rookie Kylic Horton of Clarendon Hall, from where he’s looking to make the jump to the SEC after playing football at eight. Horton helped Clarendon win several SCISA basketball championships and excelled in other sports as well.
Horton (6-foot-3, 190 pounds and ranked 859th overall and 126th at his post) caught 42 passes for 813 yards with 13 touchdowns as a senior and added four interceptions. He didn’t have an abundance of offers, with the best outside of USC being Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina.
“Just a weird athlete,” Stepp said. “I don’t know if any of you (the reporters) have watched some of his basketball stuff, but I don’t even think he knows how good he could be in his frame. He goes from football to basketball to keep up with The man hasn’t even had a real face lift offseason not even saying he hasn’t eaten like we eat here so can’t say the growth that this child may have in his first six months here.
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“He’s just someone I can help you run routes with, help you catch the football, but jumping and all that and just the natural ball skills and athletic ability of this kid, it’s tough. for me to do all of that. He’s obviously really gifted and I’m really excited to bring him here and see all the things he can do from an athletic standpoint. The sky’s the limit for him.
For now and in the fall, the focus will be on the former Gamecocks with Oklahoma transfer quarterback Spencer Rattler expected to help lead a huge instant upgrade in the passing game. .
A pair of fifth-year seniors enjoying their extra COVID-19 seasons granted in 2020 by the NCAA lead the USC pack. Josh Vann had the breakout season many expected earlier in his career when he led the team with 43 catches and 679 yards while tying for the lead with five touchdown receptions.
Dakereon Joyner, who had converted primarily to wide receiver for the latter part of his career, enjoyed a personal resurgence in December when he played only quarterback en route to the Duke’s Mayo Bowl MVP. He caught 24 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown last season.
Fourth-year Ahmarean Brown showed flashes of high-level talent in his first two seasons before failing to make much of an impact last season with the Gamecocks (11 catches for 104 yards). Another transfer, tight 6-foot-7 hybrid EJ Jenkins, is in his second season with the SEC and is looking to improve on his meager eight catches for 117 yards last year.
Xavier Legette, a talent that didn’t materialize into a big threat during his college career, is another player who could finally emerge to contribute. Former transfer Jalen Brooks turned heads early in his time at Columbia, but is not currently on the roster. It seems highly unlikely that he will return.
USC has 31 wide receiver offers for the 2023 recruiting round, including 11 ranked among the top 100 prospects overall, and 11 offers for the class of 2024, including Greenville High’s Mazeo Bennett.