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Friday, October 17, 2008
South Carolina's McKinley is a natural

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Kenny McKinley is one of those guys you could put at any position, into any system and with any coach, and he'd be a star.

In the trade, he's what they call "a football player."

He's not a 4.3 guy in the 40-yard dash. He might be 185 pounds when he's soaking wet, and he played quarterback in high school.

At South Carolina, he's closing in on being the most productive receiver to ever play for the Gamecocks.

McKinley has 173 career catches and broke Sterling Sharpe's record last week. He also holds the school record for most consecutive games with a catch (37) and is just 152 yards away from Sharpe's school record of 2,497 career receiving yards.

"Georgia wanted me to play cornerback," recalled McKinley, who was a dual-threat high school quarterback in Mableton, Ga. "I wanted to stay on the offensive side of the ball. I had committed to South Carolina right before Coach (Steve) Spurrier got here. He looked at my tape and said, 'You can be one heck of a receiver.' Coming from Coach Spurrier, who put all those guys in the league (NFL), I knew I had a chance."

The rest, as they say, is history.

It's been a weird senior season for McKinley, who injured his hamstring in the Vanderbilt loss and missed the next three games. But he's back now, and the Gamecocks (5-2, 2-2 SEC) are playing their best football of the season.

McKinley also has a new quarterback. Redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia, according to McKinley, is the sixth different quarterback he's caught passes from during his South Carolina career.

Welcome to playing receiver for the Head Ball Coach.

But, hey, McKinley's not complaining. He says hooking up with Spurrier has been the best thing to happen to him, particularly when it comes to running routes and finding ways to get open.

"Coach Spurrier turned me into a good player," McKinley said. "I love playing for Coach Spurrier. He brings the best out of you. He's a perfectionist and wants the best out of you. He's just that type of coach. He's passionate about what he does and wants to be a winner. Just being around him has made me a better person and a better player."

The other thing McKinley likes about this team is how some of the younger receivers are developing, which should make it harder for teams to shadow him. Redshirt freshmen Jason Barnes and Joe Hills have each made their presence felt in recent weeks.

McKinley's advice to LSU is not to spend too much time worrying about him.

"We've got a lot of weapons here at South Carolina," said McKinley, who led the SEC last season with 77 catches for 968 yards and also caught nine touchdown passes. "Teams can't double and triple-team me anymore. We've got Jared Cook and playmakers across the board. I can't wait for this game. It's a big-time game against a big-time team. I know our defense will hold their own, and it's time for our offense to hold their own."

McKinley also doesn't downplay what a win at home over LSU would mean for the Gamecocks, who are on a four-game winning streak after a shaky start to the season.

"It would be a great lift for our program," he said. "This is what we need to get over that hump. We're here, but this is what we need to take us over that next level."