To help college football fans get through the dog days of summer before conference media days launch the preseason festivities in mid-July, The Post and Courier is counting down the 12 most important South Carolina Gamecocks and 12 most important Clemson Tigers for 2013. The series continues Tuesday with No. 6 for each team and will conclude with the No. 1 players on July 7.
Position: Wide Receiver
Height/weight: 5-11, 190
Hometown: Spartanburg, S.C.
Last year: 41 catches ranked third on the team, capped by a career-high eight grabs in the Chick-fil-A Bowl vs. LSU.
NO. 6 CLEMSON — ADAM HUMPHRIES, WIDE RECEIVER
Adam Humphries could conceivably be the fifth-most talented wide receiver on the roster. Yet there’s another word far more relevant to his value: reliable.
Position: Defensive tackle
Last year: A full-time starter for the first time, he had 38 tackles (23 unassisted), including eight for a loss and 3½ sacks.
Sammy Watkins, if cured from last year’s woes on and off the field, should return to stud status. Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant are already giving DBs nightmares on the go routes. And file away Germone Hopper, who redshirted last year, as a dark horse breakout candidate. So this squad’s got plenty of mid-range and deep threats; but sometimes it’s necessary to have a go-to guy on third-and-4, especially in order to keep defenses honest for the home-run hitters like Peake and Bryant. Considering Watkins could see plenty of double teams, and the running back and tight end casts are uncertain, slot receiver is an enormously underrated role for the 2013 season.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd is blessed with more options in the passing game than perhaps any other passer in the country. He’d be wise to remember Humphries, who won’t wow you with his career yards-per-catch clip (7.3), but is as trusty as your favorite pitching wedge. He caught one pass, on average, for every 11.2 snaps he was on the field; not far off from DeAndre Hopkins’ rate of 9 snaps per grab.
NO. 6 SOUTH CAROLINA — KELCY QUARLES, DEFENSIVE END
He had his first season delayed by a one-year stint at Fork Union Military Academy, but when he arrived in 2011, he started six games as a true freshman. He wasn’t a huge factor that year, but began to emerge last season, when he started all 11 games that he played, and had eight tackles for loss, including 3½ sacks.
He hurt his shoulder at LSU and missed the next two games, against Florida and Tennessee, before returning for the final four games. If he can stay healthy during the heart of USC’s 2013 schedule, he could take advantage of the attention opponents are sure to give All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Kelcy Quarles has a new position coach this spring, Deke Adams, whose style differs from that of his predecessor, Brad Lawing, now at Florida. Adams is giving his players more freedom to get up the field and be aggressive. Under Lawing, the Gamecocks’ defensive linemen were more tied to their responsibilities for their particular gaps in the line.
Quarles said last season that he and defensive tackle Byron Jerideau, a senior in 2012, had no problem picking up the scraps, so to speak, when Clowney flushed a quarterback from the pocket and into Quarles’ or Jerideau’s area. Quarles and Adams know the other defensive linemen could see even more action this season because of the double teams Clowney is likely to face.
“That’s one of the things that I challenge all of our guys with, that he’s going to get so much attention that we have to make teams pay when they leave us in one-on-one situations,” Adams said. “Once we do that, it’ll make teams play us a little bit more honest and then when that happens, it just opens the floodgates.”