Could Nyckoles Harbor become South Carolina football’s version of Colorado Swiss Army Knife Travis Hunter?

South Carolina football 5-star freshman Nyckoles Harbor. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
South Carolina football 5-star freshman Nyckoles Harbor. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /

Many South Carolina football fans believe their favorite team might have the next two-way star to rock the college football world in the form of 5-star athlete Nyckoles Harbor. The thought has been circulating around Gamecock Nation since before Harbor even committed to the Gamecocks, but the hope has intensified as Colorado star Travis Hunter has become college football’s latest two-way force.

Hunter’s ability to impact winning on both offense and defense is rare but not unheard of in the college game.

His coach, Deion Sanders, flirted with the idea in the NFL, and players like Champ Bailey (Georgia, cornerback/wide receiver), Myles Jack (UCLA, linebacker/running back), Charles Woodson (Michigan, cornerback/wide receiver), and South Carolina football’s own Syvelle Newton (quarterback/wide receiver/defensive back) came before him in the college game.

Nyckoles Harbor was the recruiting industry’s #1 athlete coming out of high school in the class of 2023, and the 6’5″, 240-pound monster is the biggest freak in college football according to national pundit Bruce Feldman as he also possesses Olympic-caliber sprint speed.

In high school, the Washington DC native was primarily an EDGE player, utilizing his speed and length to dominate opposing offensive linemen with his natural ability. However, with his Olympic dreams comes a realistic “cap” to Harbor’s weight. Defensive end didn’t seem to be the best full-time fit for Harbor, so he started to set his sights on catching the football at the next level.

Harbor played some tight end in high school, but it became apparent that his college future was as a wide receiver. Because he is new to the position and missed part of the offseason with a shoulder ailment, Harbor hasn’t played as much as many Gamecock fans envisioned, but the true freshman has a bright future ahead of him.

With Harbor’s high school experience on the EDGE and the Gamecocks’ struggle to get after the passer (just two sacks in two games against Power-5 competition so far this season and just 19 all of last year), could the 5-star freshman have a future as a two-way player who primarily plays receiver but moonlights as a pass rusher in obvious passing situations?

The answer is unclear right now, but the South Carolina football coaching staff has acknowledged the possibility publicly. At several points this offseason, head coach Shane Beamer mentioned how offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains was having to fight off defensive coordinator Clayton White to keep Harbor on his side of the football.

Most two-way players have a primary job on the team and play a part-time role on the other side of the football. For Travis Hunter, the Colorado star is a cornerback for Coach Prime’s defense who helps out at wide receiver (he is the third-leading receiver on the Colorado offense in his part-time role).

Could Harbor, once he is ready at the wide receiver position, also come into the game on 3rd-and-long to try to chase down opposing quarterbacks? It seems reasonable, but it doesn’t seem likely in the immediate future.

Harbor is still learning the wide receiver position, and most two-way players in the past have had to establish themselves at one spot before even considering playing another. Hunter played very sparingly as a receiver while at Jackson State with Coach Sanders, and players like Charles Woodson and Champ Bailey played both ways for just one or two years of their college careers.

Could Harbor turn into that type of player? Perhaps. First, though, South Carolina football fans should give him plenty of time to develop into a matchup nightmare at wide receiver before putting any pressure on the young man to learn another position.

Nyckoles Harbor will be an impact player for the South Carolina football program, and there’s a chance he could make his mark on both sides of the ball, but patience is key for Gamecock fans’ expectations for Harbor. That patience will pay off in time.

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