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2017 WR class is deep and talented

Columbia – The senior class of wide receivers in South Carolina rates as one of the deepest and most talented group in many years.

By the time preseason practices had started in late July, six pass catchers had already verbally committed to Division I schools. And, there’s at least that many more left uncommitted that will likely end up signing with Division I FCS or FBS programs by February.

Picking the receiving corps for the Shrine Bowl all-star game will be difficult. However, the good news is that with a plethora of receivers available, the North-South all-star game will benefit.

While there may not be a clear-cut choice as the top receiver in this class, there are plenty of high quality players to choose from.

Among the top in most recruiting lists are DeMarcus Gregory of Byrnes and Dennis Smith of Gaffney. Gregory is a 6-3, 195-pounder with great hands and speed. He caught 64 passes for 661 yards last year as Byrnes struggled offensively throughout the season. Gregory, an Ole Miss commitment, will likely catch more passes and score more touchdowns this season.

Smith (6-2, 185) verbally committed to Duke earlier this summer. He caught 45 passes for 800 yards and seven touchdowns last year.

One of the better athletes that could end up as a full-time receiver in college is Dutch Fork’s Bryce Thompson. Thompson, a 6-0, 180-pounder, can play receiver, running back or defensive back. He also excels in the return game.

Thompson is lining up mostly at receiver this fall but also could be a wildcat quarterback as head coach Tom Knotts plans to take full advantage of his athleticism.

“I’ll do whatever,” Thompson said. “I like the ball in my hands and I want to win. Whatever they need me to do, I will do it. Same for college, just let me play.”

Thompson was an early verbal commitment to Virginia Tech but backed off his commitment in June. He is expected to announce soon for either South Carolina or Virginia Tech.

Two athletic receivers that will soon be making decisions are Greenwood’s Sam Pinckney and Fort Dorchester’s Justin Williams.

Pinckney (6-3, 205) was impressive at several camps over the summer and has early offers from Virginia Tech, Indiana, LSU, Florida State, Georgia State, Appalachian State and Georgia. Some late summer reports Pinckney leaning to FSU.

Williams (6-2, 200) is part of Fort Dorchester’s explosive passing attack. He caught 50 passes for nearly 1,000 yards last season and also excels as a kick returner.

Williams has been working hard to upgrade his academic standing and Fort Dorchester coach Steve LaPrad sees offers coming soon.

“He has worked hard to get his grades right and he’s made a bunch of progress,” LaPrad said. “He’s a special talent, a great receiver. He can run, he makes all the catches, and he scores touchdowns.”

Williams is hoping for a big senior season and continues to work on all aspects of his game.

“I am always striving to do things better,” he said. “Running routes, making catches, blocking, all the things a good receiver has to do. I feel like I can still improve so I keep working hard.”

Williams’ teammate at Fort Dorchester, Raquan Simmons, is one of the top slot receivers in the state. Though only 5-9, 170, Simmons runs a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash and makes all of the tough plays in the middle of the field.

“He’s as good as they come, no question,” LaPrad said. “He’s hard to get a hit on. He’s fast and he catches everything and he makes people miss. He’s our go-to guy.”

Chapman’s Richard Tucker caught 81 passes for 1,300 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2016 as Chapman won the Class AAA state championship. Tucker jumped on an early offer from Appalachian State and will head to Boone next fall.

“It’s a great school and the football program is top notch,” Tucker said of his decision. “I’m excited to have recruiting out of the way. My focus is 100 percent on our season and trying to win another ring.”

C.E. Murray athlete Darius Rush (6-3, 180) picked up an early offer from South Carolina and pledged to the Gamecocks in late February. Rush is smooth and athletic and also excels in track. He could play receiver or move to the secondary in college.

Wilson athlete Zion Keith (6-1, 190) could play receiver or cornerback in college. He made his verbal commitment to Wake Forest in the spring.

South Aiken boasted one of the state’s top offenses last season and has two receivers putting up big numbers. Deshawn Kitchings (5-11, 165) caught 43 passes for 631 yards and seven scores last season. Brandon Carter (5-10, 170) caught 35 passes with 13 going for touchdowns. Carter averaged 21.5 yards per catch.

Eastside’s slot superstar is Chance Pride. Though only 5-7, Pride caught 100 passes for 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. He has received mostly FCS interest with an offer from Gardner-Webb and South Carolina State.

“I am excited to prove what I can do and prove I can compete at the highest level,” Pride said. “Our program at Eastside is making strides and we’re looking for a big year this season. If we can have success as a team, all of our guys will get recruited more.”

Another explosive play-maker in the upstate is Greenville’s Ty Hellams (6-1, 170). Hellams caught 58 passes for 1,050 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. One opposing coach said of Hellams, “he’s the best player we faced last year. He’s definitely as good with the ball in his hands as any player in the state.”

Summerville’s Shaq Davis is a 6-6, 195-pounder outside receiver with great hands and leaping ability. Davis also is a Division I basketball player and is getting equal college interest in both sports.

Conway’s Juwan Moody is another under-sized playmaker. The 5-9, 170-pounder recently committed to East Carolina. He caught 31 passes for nine touchdowns a year ago but could be in for a huge season in 2017.

A sleeper to watch this fall is Ashley Ridge’s J.J. McAfee (6-3, 190). McAfee has outstanding hands, runs good routes and can play physical for the ball.

Other receivers of note this fall will include Bernard Porter of Ridge View, Julian DeGraffenreidt of St. John’s, Deamondre Goodwin of Lower Richland, Tre Davis of Wagener-Salley, Kendal Moultrie of Latta, and Tyquan Porter of Dillon.

© 2017 High School Sports Report

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