SDS talent evaluators Jon Cooper and Brad Crawford spent several months breaking down last year’s highlights, incoming talent and projected 2014 impact following spring practice to compile a list of the SEC’s Top 100 players heading into fall. Athletes were selected by position then ranked overall counting down to No. 1.
Stick with SDS throughout summer and get in on the action using the hashtag #SDSTop100 as we unveil a new player daily leading up to opening night on Aug. 28.
63. Shaq Roland, Jr., WR, South Carolina
Recruited to be an eventual No. 1 option in South Carolina’s passing attack, Roland’s time is now as a leader on offense following Bruce Ellington’s early exit into the NFL Draft. The former ‘Mr. Football’ as the top-ranked player in the Palmetto State appeared to move away from the shadow cast by Steve Spurrier’s doghouse last season and came into his own not only as an acrobatic deep threat, but as a pass-catcher who provided much-needed height to the Gamecocks’ collection of pint-sized options at wideout.
After serving a three-game suspension for a violation of university policy, Roland’s focus appeared to be in the right place upon his return with several spotlight outings late in the season including a six-catch, 112-yard performance in South Carolina’s Capital One Bowl win over Wisconsin. His routes crisp and mental preparation more precise, it was evident Roland now understood weak areas in coverage and took advantage of those opportunities. One of his more athletic exploits was a 43-yard touchdown grab against Mississippi State after he dodged a Bulldog safety on a blown coverage at the 25 yard line and galloped untouched into the end zone.
With a breakout junior campaign, Roland could become the Gamecocks’ third straight leading receiver to declare early following their third season in the garnet and black. Roland first career touchdown reception was on a strike from Dylan Thompson against UAB at Williams-Brice in 2012. Those two will create quite the tandem this fall.
2013 statistics: 25 catches, 455 yards, 5 TDs
2014 projection: 56 catches, 981 yards, 11 TDs
Photo Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports