In November of 2021, Rattler had been replaced at Oklahoma by freshman Caleb Williams. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks were in the midst of a season in which they started four different players at quarterback (including a coach-turned-player in Zeb Noland).
Around the same time, wide receiver Xavier Legette was an afterthought in the wide receiver rotation in Columbia. He had just over 250 yards of total offense in his three-year career and had struggled with drops, route-running, and staying healthy.
Even 14 months ago, the thought seemed ridiculous. Rattler had struggled (other than the Arkansas game) to start his first season as a Gamecock as offensive coordinator Marcus Satterfield’s scheme simply did not work and did not put Rattler in the best position to succeed. Legette was still not a factor in the Carolina receiving room.
The end of the last season saw things change dramatically for both players.
Spencer Rattler finished the year as one of the hottest quarterbacks of the last month of the season, including an all-time great performance against Tennessee in which he went 30-37 for 438 yards and 6 touchdowns as the Gamecocks eliminated the Vols from College Football Playoff contention. He followed that one up with a road win against Clemson in which USC kept their in-state rivals from the CFP, as well.
Xavier Legette got going a bit with a kickoff return for touchdown against Texas A&M, and he scored his only three receiving touchdowns of the year over the next four games, including a 2-score performance against Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.
If Spencer Rattler and Xavier Legette had tradable stock, the price would have been trending upward.
Now, in 2023 under new offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, #7 and #17 have moved past being “stock up players” and have solidified themselves as all-time greats.
In just 11 games, Rattler has become just the 2nd quarterback in South Carolina football history to throw for 3000 yards twice (Todd Ellis was the other), and he is 490 yards shy of Dylan Thompson’s single-season record of 3564 yards passing. Thompson had 13 games to accomplish that feat, and if the Gamecocks make a bowl this year, it seems reasonable to expect Rattler to surpass Thompson’s record.
In 11 games played (but really about 10 games thanks to missing parts of two games with injury), Xavier Legette is also 2nd in single-season receiving yards. His 1187 yards are more than great players like Sterling Sharpe, Sidney Rice, Deebo Samuel, Brian Edwards, and Pharoh Cooper. Only Alshon Jeffery (1517 yards in 2010) has had a better season as a Gamecock wide receiver. With a bowl game, Legette has a chance to catch Jeffery.
Both Rattler and Legette have shown themselves to be high-character people, as well.
Rattler, who was known as an immature and arrogant player coming out of high school thanks to a Netflix documentary that followed him around the football field when he was 16 years old. Since arriving in Columbia, it has become increasingly obvious that Spencer Rattler is far from immature or arrogant.
Rattler has emerged as one of the best leaders to ever play for Carolina and, according to Dowell Loggains, he has not complained a single time about his teammates despite his team being among the country’s leaders in sacks allowed and dropped passes. He has embraced the fanbase in a huge way, too.
One heartwarming story from a Gamecock fan tells about Rattler stopping his trek through the Gamecock Walk to speak to the fan’s son. The son gave Rattler a bracelet, one that he wore during the game and even into Clemson week.
He also has spoken multiple times over the last week about how Columbia has become his home and how he plans to keep his apartment in Columbia even after moving on to the NFL.
Legette’s character has been pretty obvious throughout his Gamecock career, but a lot of fans weren’t aware of just how much of a quality young man he is until he emerged as a big-time playmaker this season.
Legette originally was not supposed to come to Columbia with his graduating class as Will Muschamp’s coaching staff had the Mullins, South Carolina native pegged as a gray shirt. Legette was willing to do what was best for the team, but some last-minute changes allowed him to enroll on time.
USC fans didn’t always have the nicest things to say about Legette, unfortunately. He struggled on the field at times, and drops were a major part of his story.
Unsurprisingly, the toughness and never-quit mentality of Xavier Legette showed through as he battled injuries and those struggles. He kept working and earned a full-time starting job for the Gamecocks heading into this season. He’s made the most of that opportunity, becoming one of the top wideouts in the country.
South Carolina football fans: don’t lose sight of the fact that this will be the last time these two tremendous players and young men will play at Williams-Brice Stadium. Technically, Spencer Rattler could return, but with both Rattler and Legette expected to be picked in the top half of the 2024 NFL Draft, they won’t be Gamecocks much longer.
Spencer Rattler and Xavier Legette are everything that is right about the South Carolina football program, and it won’t be long before NFL Sundays will be the only chance fans will have to watch them play again.