South Carolina football has a long history of playmakers on the outside. Big, possession receivers and smaller, speedier pass catchers both have played important roles in the offensive history of the University of South Carolina’s football program. With a couple of high-caliber current and incoming athletes hoping to put their names into the receiver pantheon in Columbia, let’s take a look at the best wide receivers in South Carolina football history.
Tori Gurley: Tori Gurley (2008-2010) only spent two years playing as a Gamecock (he redshirted in 2008), but he was very productive in those two seasons. He totaled almost 1000 yards in his two campaigns in garnet and black, but it could have been more if not for his knack for having big plays called back due to penalties. Gurley’s talent led him to leave school early to pursue an NFL career. His brief time in the league was uneventful, but he became an excellent receiver in the Canadian Football League before injuries derailed his career.
Damiere Byrd: One of the fastest sprinters to ever don a block C on his helmet, Damiere Byrd (2011-2014) was part of Steve Spurrier’s troup of excellent short wide receivers, along with Bruce Ellington, Pharoh Cooper, Nick Jones, and Ace Sanders. Byrd parlayed his collegiate success into a nice NFL career with the Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, and Atlanta Falcons. He is still active and heading into his ninth season in the NFL.
Ace Sanders: A fan favorite, Ace Sanders (2010-2012) is one of the shiftiest Gamecocks ever. A good receiver and a great punt returner, Sanders had an excellent season as a junior. He scored nine offensive touchdowns and took two punts to the house, including an iconic Williams-Brice rattling return in the 35-7 rout of Georgia. He had three touchdowns in his final game and parlayed that success into being selected in the fourth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Josh Vann: A player who struggled early in his career, Josh Vann (2018-2022) is one of the hardest-working receivers to have ever played at Carolina. That hard work paid off for Vann as he became the best receiver for Head Coach Shane Beamer in 2021. He returned for the 2022 season, but injuries slowed him down. Some of Vann’s biggest moments as a Gamecock came in the biggest games, and he has an impressive highlight reel to boot. He is hoping to hear his name called in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft.
Ira Hillary: A solid receiver for four seasons, Ira Hillary (1981-1984) is best remembered as the home run threat for the offense during the 1984 “Black Magic” season. Hillary averaged over twenty yards per catch that season, including three long touchdowns. His big-play ability led to him being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals where he played in a Super Bowl. After a four-year NFL career, he dominated for a short time in the Arena League before retiring after two seasons.
Brian Scott: Brian Scott (1997-2001) did not contribute much until his redshirt junior year. Scott’s emergence coincided with the Gamecocks putting together one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history when the team went from 21 straight losses to 17-7 over their next 24 contests. His most memorable moment came as he snatched victory from the (Bulldog) jaws of defeat by catching a game-winner in the closing moments against Georgia in 2001.
Monty Means: Monty Means (1993-1995) didn’t really know how to play football until his final year at Carolina. Having only played two seasons of football in his life before stepping on campus at South Carolina, Means took time to adjust to the college game. When he finally got his chance to contribute in 1995, Means scored 10 touchdowns and caught passes for 650 yards. In modern college football, Means would have had another year of eligibility, and fans of the 90s Gamecocks could imagine how good the Union County product would have been with that extra year.
Nick Jones: A high school teammate of Marcus Lattimore, Nick Jones (2010-2014) was a small receiver who didn’t run fast. He was, however, one of the best route runners to ever play at South Carolina, and his football IQ was off the charts. Despite his diminutive stature, “The Governor” as Steve Spurrier called him, was a good perimeter blocker who played hard. His start to the 2014 season against Texas A&M, East Carolina, and Georgia secured his spot as a fan favorite: Jones tallied almost 250 yards with two touchdowns, including clutch grabs against ECU and Georgia.
Jim Mitchell: Jim Mitchell (1969-1971) did not play much as a freshman because he was the backup to Fred Zeigler in a run-heavy system. When the top receiving spot opened up with Zeigler’s graduation, Mitchell took advantage. During his junior season, he averaged over 20 yards per catch, scored seven touchdowns, and racked up over 800 yards. His final year as a Gamecock was not quite as strong, but it was still good enough to lead the ACC in receiving yards.
Ryan Bethea: One of the most gifted receivers to play at South Carolina, Ryan Bethea (1985-1987) was a big, athletic receiver who put up good numbers even while playing with one of the best receivers of all-time Sterling Sharpe, elite pass-catching tight end Danny Smith, and good receiving running back Harold Green. Bethea eventually would be dismissed from the team before the 1988 season, but he was still picked by the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL Supplemental Draft.
Phillip Logan: Phillip Logan (1974-1977) was one of Jeff Grantz’s favorite targets. Logan, who saw his production dip after Grantz graduated, set the record for receptions in the Tangerine Bowl by snagging nine passes in the game his sophomore year.
Arguably his biggest moment came against rival Clemson as, on 4th and 12 from the 40, Logan caught a pass and wriggled his way to the end zone through half the defense to give his team the lead with seconds remaining. After his collegiate career, Logan turned down a free agent opportunity with the Green Bay Packers to pursue a career in developing athletic timing technology.