This offseason we will be breaking down the positions on the roster following the chaotic roster turnover after the 2022 season. Today, we will take a look at the wide receiver and tight end room as it stands today going into the 2023 spring. *Rosters are subject to change at any point*
Overall Position Overview: We will begin here by looking at these positions as a whole. I love the potential of the pass-catchers that South Carolina is going to take into the spring of 2023. South Carolina is replacing a lot of production at both tight end and wide receiver. Jalen Brooks, Josh Vann, Nate Adkins, and others have graduated while Jaheim Bell opted to transfer to Florida State and Austin Stogner decided to transfer back to Oklahoma. Initially, especially at tight end, it felt like the Gamecocks were dealt a huge blow in subtractions. While the Gamecocks may not have made the huge splash that they did following the 2021 season in the transfer portal, when you take a step back and examine the position(s), it is a very intriguing group.
Lets begin with returning players from the 2022 squad.
Antwane “Juice” Wells
The James Madison transfer came to Columbia with a lot of buzz in 2022, and in his first SEC game on the road against Arkansas, Wells had a huge game by tallying 189 yards on 8 catches and a touchdown. Then it felt like Wells disappeared in the middle of the season with his lone bright spot being a touchdown catch and run in the road victory over #13 Kentucky. As the calendar turned to November, Wells turned into a household name for Gamecock fans. Excluding the Florida disaster, in the Gamecocks’ last three wins, Wells was arguably the best player on the field in upsets over Tennessee and Clemson where he went over 110 yards in each game. Everyone waited with baited breath on Wells to announce his decision for the 2023 season as he was deciding on declaring for the NFL Draft or returning to team up with Spencer Rattler for one final season in Columbia. Wells has opted to return to Columbia for the 2023 season and will enter spring practice as the top receiver on this roster by a mile.
Joyner is just a good football player for the Gamecocks. You could list Joyner at any position on this roster and he would probably be able to do it. He has already been listed on the quarterbacks list but Joyner’s official roster position is at wide receiver. While Joyner’s 8 catches for 120 yards on the 2022 campaign do not wow you at all, but Joyner always seems to make plays for this team under Shane Beamer, going back to catching a game-tying touchdown against ECU in 2021. As I said in the quarterbacks article, I do not know exactly where Joyner is going to fit into this offense under Dowell Loggains, but rest assured that Joyner is going to be a contributor in some way.
Legette has shown flashes of brilliance during the course of his career in Columbia since his freshman campaign in 2019. He has also had periods where he has disappeared for long stretches and struggled to crack the rotation. He is someone that I am also very willing to give a lot of leeway to because when he plays in 2023, it will be for the 4th offensive coordinator in 5 seasons. Legette seemed to turn the corner in 2022 on offense and maybe more importantly on special teams when he had one of the most electrifying moments of the season with his 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Texas A&M. Legette also had an outstanding Gator Bowl against Notre Dame with 2 touchdowns. I anticipate Legette being a huge contributor in 2023 along with Wells and Memphis transfer Eddie Lewis.
The Georgia Tech transfer had a huge bowl game against UNC in 2021 and was set up to be a key contributor in 2022, but offensively Brown never really had that huge performance for the Gamecocks like he did against the Tar Heels. That was until Brown became the primary punt returner towards the end of the season and sidekick for Dakereon Joyner in the Tennessee game when Joyner would take snaps at quarterback. Brown had multiple explosive plays in that game as well as a huge punt return to set up a touchdown against Clemson. I would project Brown to continue to find ways to contribute to the offense and special teams once again in 2023.
There is also a group of receivers on this roster that are returning that include Kylic Horton, Omega Blake, Landon Samson, and others that Carolina has signed out of high school that are just going to have to break through and become key contributors here. Relying on transfer portal additions every year feels like a dangerous way to make a living in the SEC. The players listed above are going to have to step up and play a key role at some point this season for the Gamecocks to continue to trend upwards in the SEC.
Now, let’s take a look at some the notable newcomers.
The Memphis transfer from Harlem comes in with a lot of praise from the coaching staff. Lewis is going to be a big factor for the Gamecocks in 2023 and has already received offseason praise from people within the program. The 5-11 receiver caught 42 passes for 615 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2022 for the Tigers. Remember the name Eddie Lewis, I anticipate it is going to be one that the Gamecocks rely on a great deal this season.
Trey Knox (TE)
The Arkansas transfer will be the Gamecocks primary target in the passing game from the tight end position in 2023. Knox comes with his former tight end coach and new Gamecock offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains over from Arkansas. At 6-5 and 250 pounds, Knox caught 5 touchdowns for the Razorbacks in 2022 and is another one that is already on campus and receiving high praise for his offseason work heading into the spring of 2023.
Nick Elksnis (TE)
The Florida transfer does not have stats that blow you away from his days in Gainesville but is someone that comes very highly regarded for his abilities at tight end as a blocker as well as a potential target in the passing game. Elksnis was being recruited by some very big schools for his services including LSU and Oklahoma before committing to the Gamecocks and arriving on campus for winter workouts. The Gamecocks needed tight ends and Elksnis will play a lot for the Gamecocks in 2023.
Nyckoles Harbor (ATH)
In what was the Gamecocks biggest recruiting victory since Jadeveon Clowney, Shane Beamer and his staff went to Maryland and secured one of the most talented athletes in years with 5 star Nyckoles Harbor in early February. Harbor is a world class sprinter that has aspirations of being an olympic star down the road and is already setting records on the track in high school. Harbor can play multiple positions on either side of the football. He has played EDGE as well as tight end and receiver. He is 6-5, 225, and will only continue to get bigger once he steps on campus. Gamecock fans will be eager to see where Harbor fits into the offense but one thing is for certain and that is that Harbor will contribute for the Gamecocks as a freshman. He is a player that Dowell Loggains and the staff will be very creative in how they use him given his size and elite speed. Harbor is going to be a special player in Columbia, and I anticipate he will make an impact very early for the Gamecocks as a true freshman in 2023.