Is South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery Overrated?

This may anger some folks, especially Gamecock fans, but is Alshon Jeffery really worthy of being tabbed as the SEC’s top player, noted this preseason by ESPN?

Last season’s 88-catch, school-record setting 1,517-yard performance turned the heads of most media members in the direction of Williams-Brice Stadium and South Carolina’s second option on a talented offense.

But was one season, heck, six standout games, too little of a sample size?

Through four games in 2011 – Jeffery’s supposed junior-year, Heismanesque campaign – the St. Matthews, S.C. native has just 14 catches for 246 yards and a touchdown. He isn’t on anyone’s top player list at the moment and has been an afterthought in back-to-back games for the Gamecock offense.

Have defenses mastered multiple coverages against Jeffery? Is he struggling to get open? Some of Jeffery’s power outage has to do with a stressed passing game and a revised mindset from head coach Steve Spurrier to spread the ball to other receivers but with that being said, Jeffery’s had opportunities for big plays and hasn’t converted.

Sure, Jeffery’s had his “ooh-ahh” moments South Carolina fans have come to expect, including a fingertip touchdown grab at Georgia and a sprawling haul-in on a deflected pass against Vanderbilt. But the SEC East’s No. 1 receiver in 2010 hasn’t been the deep-threat most projected him to be as a junior and it could be hurting his hopes as a first-round pick in next year’s NFL Draft.

For fans and writers that don’t follow the Gamecocks as closely as I do, I’m saying Alshon Jeffery is overrated and he let the preseason Sports Illustrated cover hype get to his head.

Numbers aside, Jeffery’s actual, real-time skill set is often overlooked.

On TV and in-person, Jeffery runs like he’s on stilts, clumsy at times, resembling Frankenstein’s monster with his 6-foot-4 frame and gargantuan hands.

Outside of his ability to catch a football no matter where it’s thrown, Jeffery doesn’t have the speed or moves to separate from a top-notch corner to be considered among the nation’s best wide receivers.

If you watch breakdown of Jeffery’s routes from snap to finish, it takes him a few seconds to get off the ball and really dig into his cuts. A sure-handed big target, yes, but Jeffery won’t have the impact at the next level as say, Sidney Rice, another South Carolina wideout with similar size, talent and ability to stretch the field.

Jeffery’s lack of breakaway speed and agility sets him behind similar standouts like Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon and Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles.

As a professional, Jeffery will closer resemble a possession receiver like Keyshawn Johnson instead of the Randy Moss-clone projected by many of “the experts”. I admit, I was on the Alshon Bandwagon shortly after Lane Kiffin said he’d be pumping gas after his college football career was over, but upon further inspection, he’s just another talented wide receiver in the SEC.

He won’t be pumping gas like Kiffin – though vehemently denied – predicted, but he won’t be scoring many touchdowns in the NFL either. Jeffery will certainly go down as one of South Carolina’s top receivers in school history, a deep lineage of wideouts that includes Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks, Rice, Kenny McKinley and Troy Williamson.

He’s just not as good as you think.

Flame away.