Posted by Jerry Hinnen
South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery finished the 2010 season as the nation's fifth-leading receiver with 1,517 yards. He was consistent, finishing with 85 or more yards in 11 of his team's 14 games. He was explosive, averaging more yards per-reception (17.2) than any other receiver in the FBS with more than 70 catches, and Jeffery had 88 of them.
2011 has just a bit different. Jeffery is currently outside the nation's top 100 receivers with 487 yards. He has been inconsistent, finishing with 35 or fewer yards in five of his team's nine games and not once cracking the 100-yard barrier. He has not been explosive, averaging just over 13.5 yards per reception.
Things have been particularly dire for Jeffery over the past three games. Jeffery looked to be ready for a second-half resurgence after Connor Shaw took over as the Gamecocks' quarterback vs. Kentucky on Oct. 8, catching 6 balls for 95 yards and two touchdowns against the Wildcats.
But the stretch since then has instead been the most ineffectual of Jeffery's career--vs. Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas Jeffery caught 11 passes for a total of 60 yards, or fewer yards than he had in all but two individual games last season. Not one of those 11 receptions covered so much as 10 yards. Jeffery's most productive game in that span -- 24 yards vs. MSU -- ranks as the ninth-most productive receiving game on his own team over those three games.
For a player of Jeffery's talents, this kind of lack of production is baffling at best and a seeming flat-out impossibility at worst. So it's no wonder he's expecting things to get better this week vs. Florida.
“He has not seen a lot of true bump-and-run, me-and-you,” Gamecock receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. said Thursday. “He thinks he’s going to have an opportunity.”
For the Gamecocks' sake, he'd better. It's no coincidence that during Jeffery's three-game downturn from what had already been a season-long downturn, Carolina has averaged all of 16 offensive points per-game* and 271 total yards--or one yard less than what the 118th-ranked Memphis offense averages a contest.
Of course, there's plenty going wrong with the Carolina offense that's not Jeffery's fault. Shaw has been wobbly at best, indecisive and erratic at worst. With no Marcus Lattimore, the running game has had all the explosiveness of a box of matches left out in the rain. Aside from the occasional burst from Bruce Ellington, no complementary playmaker has emerged to keep opposing defenses from sending regular over-the-top help Jeffery's way. And after reyling so heavily on Lattimore the past season-and-a-half, Steve Spurrier seems to have lost something of his old playcalling ingenuity and spark.
But since Carolina can't solve all those problems at once, they'll have to start with solving the biggest one of them all: finding a way to get their best offensive player and only legitimate big-play threat the ball somehow. If not, the noon kickoff (on CBS!) means the Gators will have the Gamecocks SEC East hopes done and dusted before Georgia even takes the field.