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Gamecocks still looking for speed at wide receiver position

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At one time, South Carolina featured a slew of small, speedy receivers such as Ace Sanders, Bruce Ellington, Nick Jones and Damiere Byrd.

As a result, receivers quickly getting down the field and quarterbacks dropping back and completing long passes was a popular staple of the USC offense.

Steve Spurrier loved it.

This spring, the Gamecocks roster included a number of tall receivers standing 6-foot or taller: Deebo Samuel (6-foot-0), Christian Owens (6-5), Matrick Belton (6-4), Sean Odom (6-0), Shamier Jeffery (6-1), Carlton Heard (6-0) and Terry Googer (6-4).

What the current crop of receivers lack is a deep threat, somebody with the ability to run past defensive backs, haul in a long pass and outrace them to the end zone.

Spurrier realizes his offense functions more efficiently with a receiver possessing that capability, which is why he described quarterback Michael Scarnecchia's 33-yard completion to Samuel on the second-to-last play of Saturday's Garnet and Black game to move the ball to the 2-yard line as "sort of neat."

But long pass plays like that were few and far between in a spring game Spurrier lamented as "otherwise not a real super duper offensive game" even though three quarterbacks combined for 511 passing yards.

"Our guys have got to get faster," Spurrier said. "We have some big guys out there. We have to work on speed this summer. You can improve your speed, you really can. We have to have some speed out there. We kept trying to throw some deep balls, but they were well covered and we didn't even throw them."

Will Deebo Samuel emerge as USC's second-best receiver behind Pharoh Cooper?

Entering the spring, an important question was which receiver would emerge as a second reliable target behind Pharoh Cooper. After 15 practices, Spurrier contended the search is ongoing, although Samuel might hold a slight edge going into the summer months.

"All those guys are pretty good. I don't know if one has completely stepped away from the others," Spurrier said. "Deebo, at times, shows some big-play potential. So, we know he is going to play and Pharoh is going to play."

Samuel redshirted in 2014 after catching 166 passes for 2,751 yards and 36 touchdowns during his career at Chapman High School in Inman.

"Ever since the winter, I've been working hard to get in better shape, working in the weight room and on the field," Samuel said Saturday following the spring game. "I've caught extra balls after workouts. I've met with the coaches every chance I get."

Lining up for both teams, Samuel caught three passes for 94 yards (31.3 yards per catch) in the spring game, including the key reception from Scarnecchia in the final minute to set up the winning touchdown.

Saturday afternoon marked the first opportunity for most of the 22,000 Gamecock fans in attendance to watch Samuel in action.

"Redshirting is a chance to learn and get better," Samuel said. "You can watch other people and learn from what they are doing. It was also a great chance for me to learn the playbook and just try to get better from there."

Spurrier revealed senior wide receiver Shamier Jeffery missed the spring game after spraining his ankle walking down some stairs. Beyond Cooper, Jeffery is the only other Gamecock receiver that has caught a pass in a game.

"All these other guys are sort of in a wad right now," Spurrier said. "But you can really improve through the summer. They've had spring ball now. They know the patterns. They know what they need to work on. Sometimes, it's amazing how much better a player can become from April to August. They have three months, so we'll see where they are when they report in August ready to go."

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