South Carolina Football: Former 5-star tabbed as breakout candidate for Gamecocks

South Carolina football wide receiver Nyck Harbor has been labeled as a breakout candidate by 247Sports.

South Carolina football wide receiver Nyck Harbor
South Carolina football wide receiver Nyck Harbor / Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina football fans had unrealistic expectations for 5-star freshman Nyck Harbor heading into the 2023 season. The freakazoid athlete (6'5", 240 pounds, Olympic-caliber sprint speed) had never really played the wide receiver position, and it took him some time to get acclimated to the college game.

By the end of the season, Harbor was noticeably more comfortable on the field, and he had a couple of nice moments (long contested catch against Florida, six grabs against Missouri, key 1st down snag against Kentucky).

Now, with an offseason of development with the football team and blazing fast times with the track and field program, Nyck Harbor should have a better season in 2024.

Some even have called the Washington DC native a breakout candidate for next fall.

247Sports' Brad Crawford picked Harbor as one of eleven players across the country who are "primed for 2024 breakout."

The reasoning behind thinking #8 could have a big sophomore campaign are obvious: experience, opportunity, and skill levels all should be in a better place for Harbor heading into 2024 than they were last season. Together with his natural gifts, those factors should lead him to make a bigger impact for Shane Beamer's South Carolina football team.

The experience factor is crucial for most college football players. However, when players shift to a new spot on the field, it becomes even more valuable. Not only had Harbor not played much receiver in high school, when he did (really as a flexed tight end), he was so much bigger and faster than everyone else, he was able to rely on his size and speed for all of his production. He should continue to get better as he gets more and more comfortable split out wide.

Last year's team also had one of the country's top wide receivers in Xavier Legette. Legette caught 1255 yards worth of passes in 2023, and while not quite the same build as Harbor, his play style was very similar to his freshman teammate. Legette possesses top-end speed, and he had enough size and ahtleticism to be a real factor on jump balls. Now, Harbor has a chance to fill some of the void left by XL's departure to the NFL.

Frankly, whether it was due to inexperience, lack of practice (he spent part of the offseason injured), or something else, Harbor struggled with certain receiver skills in 2023. Route-running was a struggle most of the year, and his hands were inconsistent. Gamecock fans should expect both of those to be vastly improved heading into next year.

So, is a breakout season guaranteed for Nyck Harbor? No, and holding him to that standard probably still isn't fair for a player in his second year at a new position who also spends part of his offseason away from the football team while running track. However, it is certainly possible, and improvement should be the expectation.

Harbor will run in the SEC indoor track and field championships this weekend for a chance to advance to the national championships.

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