- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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The day of sitting true freshman in college football is long gone. Youth is no longer a crutch for players when they get on campus.
With that comes a ton of hype that can sometimes be overwhelming. Some players are able to deal with the pressure almost immediately, while others come along a little slower.
Four weeks into the season, expect South Carolina wide receiver Shaq Roland to take a another big step in his progression with the Gamecocks.
Before the season, Roland was expected to be a main contributor in the Gamecocks’ passing game with a host of unproven players to work with. The Gamecocks’ top 2012 signee was exactly what South Carolina needed after the loss of Alshon Jeffery with his speed and playmaking ability. But Roland has played in just two games this season, catching three passes for 55 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown.
It’s time for Roland to come out of his shell, and South Carolina will need him to against Missouri, which is giving up less than 200 passing yards a game.
With quarterback Connor Shaw banged up, Roland could become a very valuable weapon in both the short and deep game. With Bruce Ellington getting banged up last week against UAB, Roland could get more targets this weekend. He’s elusive enough to be used over the middle, where he can shake his way to extra yards, and has the speed to be a big-play threat down the field.
We still haven’t seen any true breakout from South Carolina’s receivers. Part of that has been because of the quarterback carousel, but the Gamecocks should be used to both Shaw and Dylan Thompson, so having either chucking the ball around shouldn’t be an issue for Roland and his fellow receivers.
Slowly, we are seeing more of what Roland can do. It hasn’t been a fast transition to the college field for Roland, but with his talent, he should be a stud in the Gamecocks’ offense. He just needs the right push, and that will come Saturday.
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5dEdward Aschoff and Greg Ostendorf