South Carolina Football: Juice Wells on watch list for Biletnikoff Award

South Carolina football receiver Antwane "Juice" Wells was chosen as the top receiver in the SEC by USAToday. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina football receiver Antwane "Juice" Wells was chosen as the top receiver in the SEC by USAToday. Mandatory Credit: Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports /

South Carolina football wide receiver Antwane “Juice” Wells is one of the best wide receivers in college football. Called by some the best returning receiver in the SEC, Wells is poised for a huge year in 2023 as both he and quarterback Spencer Rattler turned down a shot at the NFL for one last ride in garnet and black.

That last ride could be an award-riddled one for the Gamecock duo. On Monday, Juice Wells was selected (in obvious fashion) to the preseason watch list for the Biletnikoff Award that is named after Hall of Fame wideout Fred Biletnikoff and given out annually to the top pass catcher in college football.

Tight ends and running backs are also eligible for the award and a couple are usually on the preseason watch list, but only wide receivers have ever won.

Wells’ inclusion on the watchlist was a no-brainer.

Wells was among the SEC’s leaders in receptions and receiving yards in 2022, and he put up those numbers despite having four different games in which former offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield targeted him three times or less.

#3 will be the #1 option once again for a South Carolina offense that is expected to lean on its passing game heavily. The Gamecocks have serious question marks in the running game, and they showed at the end of last season that Wells and Rattler can carry the load even with minimal help on the ground.

Against Tennessee and Clemson to end the regular season in 2022, Wells caught a whopping 20 passes for 308 yards and 3 total touchdowns. South Carolina also came out victorious against those two top-10 opponents by a combined score of 94-68.

Two additional factors should scare opposing defenses in 2023: 1) Wells and Rattler are much more comfortable in new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains’ system than they ever were in Satterfield’s, and 2) The Carolina offense has more weapons in the passing game this year.

Satterfield’s offense was too complex and caused problems at times for the Gamecock offensive line and for Rattler. Loggains’ scheme is much easier and is built on getting good players the football, something that every offense should be striving to do.

Despite losing two receivers and a tight end to the NFL and two more tight ends to transfer, most people around the South Carolina football program believe the offense has more weapons in the passing game in 2023. The returning receivers are getting better, freshman Nyck Harbor is a 1 of 1 type player with Olympic speed and freak size, tight ends Trey Knox, Josh Simon, and Nick Elksnis could be more productive than last year’s unit, and Eddie Lewis might fill the Josh Vann void.

With too much attention on Wells, the other weapons in the Gamecocks’ offense could feast. On the other hand, if defenses pay proper attention to the rest of USC’s playmakers, Juice Wells might have enough opportunities to win the Biletnikoff Award altogether.

No Gamecock has ever won the Biletnikoff Award, but South Carolina football legend Alshon Jeffery was a finalist for the award in 2010, and several players have made the preseason watch list over the years.