A big focus this offseason has been at the wide receiver position.
We lost Alshon Jeffery to the NFL and there are a lot of unproven players returning trying to find their way in the lineup and replace his production. There are a few veterans like Ace Sanders and D.L. Moore expected to step up and lead this unit while young guys like Shamier Jeffery, K.J. Brent and Shaq Roland hope to make their impact felt.
So we're sitting here looking at the wide receiver position to step up in 2012. These are the guys looking to replace Alshon Jeffery's production in the passing game. However, we seem to be forgetting something here.
But what about the tight ends?
Ah yes, the tight ends. Let's run through some of the tight ends on the roster or will be on the roster this fall:
- Rory Anderson - 6'5" and weighs 218 pounds
- Justice Cunningham - 6'4" and weighs 264 pounds
- Drew Owens - 6'4" tall and weights 236 pounds
- Kelvin Rainey - 6'3" and weighs 219 pounds
- Corey Simmons - 6'5" and weighs 255 pounds
- Jerell Adams - 6'4" and weighs 225 pounds
Can you say "talent?" This is exactly what the Gamecocks will have this fall when it comes to the tight end position. Dare I even say the words "loaded" when referring to the Gamecocks tight end depth?
We've already seen what Cunningham and Anderson can do. Cunningham will be a mixture in the hybrid TE/FB position and will be used a variety of ways. Anderson ended up playing in 2011 out of necessity for the Gamecocks and it worked out wonders. The young, lanky tight end only caught eight passes but three of those went for touchdowns and averaged 23.5 yards per catch. I'd say that's big play potential there.
Kelvin Rainey has already enrolled in school and is working through his first spring practice as we speak. You can tell he's got the talent and ability. He could be utilized in a pass catching role out of the backfield in the H-Back position similar to what Cunningham does for the Gamecocks. Corey Simmons moved over from defensive end and has seemed to find his home at the tight end position. Drew Owens was a higher rated tight end out of high school than Rory Anderson and brings a similar skill set with great hands and size on a frame that will allow him to be used in a way similar to Jared Cook at USC. We haven't even begun to mention how talented Jerell Adams is now. He'll play somewhere for USC in 2012.
The key thing here is this group has seen its talent level increase tremendously over the past few seasons. USC has been missing the big play tight end since Weslye Saunders and Jared Cook. Those guys could stretch the field. Look for this new group of players to be able to do what's been lacking since their departure.
So I'm asking you to remember the tight ends when thinking about who could step up for the Gamecocks in the receiving game.
These guys might be the secret weapon no one seems to be talking about.