The South Carolina Gamecocks have struggled on offense this year but still stand at 6-1. Preseason All-America wide receiver Alshon Jeffery will have to lead the way down the stretch with star running back Marcus Lattimore lost for the season with a knee injury. Jeffery has 30 catches for 451 yards and five touchdowns in seven games on the year. That’s not bad, but it is nowhere near the pace of last season’s 88 receptions for 1,517 yards and nine scores. Meanwhile at Clemson, five-star freshman Sammy Watkins is lighting up opponents. In the first seven games of his career, Watkins has 46 catches for 728 yards and eight touchdowns while also adding 127 yards rushing and a kick-return score. The Tigers rank 15th in the country in total offense, and Watkins has been a huge reason for their success.
Who is the top wide receiver in the Palmetto State?
Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
If I am down by four late in the fourth quarter with a fourth and goal from the 10, I will take Alshon Jeffery. He is a physical freak and is a monster in jump ball situations. For every other play on the field - and practice - I will take Clemson's Sammy Watkins. He is arguably the most dynamic force at wide receiver in the entire nation and does all of the little things — e.g. blocking, leading and even getting his teammates lined-up correctly — extremely well. Does he play with a better quarterback than Jeffery? Clearly, but he does so much more than Jeffery. Watkins has 20 rushing attempts, 46 receptions, 11 kick returns and two punt returns to Jeffery's 30 receptions. Watkins has 1,205 all-purpose yards to Jeffery's 451. And he has nine scores to Jeffery's five. Both are clutch and both are first-round picks, but Watkins is performing at a much higher level and he is only a true freshman.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
When I first read this question, I thought I had a nice curveball — Aaron Mellette from Elon. But then I remembered that Elon is in North Carolina, not South Carolina. So I can’t go with the Phoenix’s junior who has 74 catches for 990 yards though seven games. That leaves Sammy Watkins of Clemson and Alshon Jeffery of South Carolina. Jeffery entered the season as one of the most hyped offensive players in the nation, but his production has been ordinary this season. He ranks fifth in the SEC in receiving yards per game (64.4) and fourth in total receptions (30). Watkins, on the other hand, has been sensational for the undefeated Tigers. He ranks second in the ACC in yards per game (104.0) and is tied for the league lead in receptions (46). And if you don’t want to judge these guys by stats alone, just watch them play. It’s clear that Watkins — through the first half of the season — is the more electric playmaker. Jeffery is still an outstanding receiver who will be a high NFL Draft pick, but Watkins, even as a true freshman, has to be considered the top receiver in the state.
Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
It’s easy to go with the current statistics and say Sammy Watkins at Clemson, but I’m still going to pick Alshon Jeffery at South Carolina. He may have gotten a little big in the offseason, but it’s nowhere near as big as the mess that is the Gamecocks’ quarterback situation. There is no way that Steve Spurrier should have the 87th-ranked passing offense in the nation, but the stubborn ball coach allowed this to happen by not recruiting better signal callers. Spurrier’s one “elite” quarterback recruit at USC, Stephen Garcia, was a knucklehead who finally was kicked off the team after a ridiculous amount of drama. It’s hard for me to blame Jeffery for the offensive mess. Conversely, Chad Morris’ attack at Clemson has taken the ACC by storm and the Tigers are scoring in bunches. I love Sammy Watkins’ game, and he may overtake Jeffery quickly for instate bragging rights. Watkins is electric on the outside and catches everything around him. We’ll see if defensive coordinators adjust to his skills and Morris’ offense, but Sammy Watkins is definitely the truth. But for now, I’ll still take the 6’4”, 230-lb (or so) Jeffery and count on South Carolina to do a better job of getting him the ball down the stretch.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
I think the best receiver in South Carolina at the midpoint of the season is Clemson’s Sammy Watkins. Alshon Jeffery’s numbers are nowhere near the pace he was setting last season. I know Jeffery has had quarterback issues and needs other Gamecock receivers to step up and draw some attention away, but he was expected him to have more than 30 catches after seven games. Clemson’s success on offense has been a combination of factors, but Watkins’ emergence has been huge. The true freshman already has four 100-yard performances this year and is averaging 15.2 yards per touch. Jeffery and Watkins bring a slightly different skill set to the table, but both players are two of the top 10 receivers in college football. Jeffery has a longer resume, but Watkins is having the better 2011 campaign.