Part of the issue with South Carolina’s wide receivers in recent years is that they’ve had several guys with plenty of potential but, for some reason, simply haven’t lived up to the hype.

Josh Vann may be the poster child for a crowded group.

Before this season, he played behind the likes of Deebo Samuel, Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith. Even though Vann was a U.S. Army All-American out of Tucker, Ga., and the No. 25 wide receiver in the class of 2018, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, Vann had not reached the potential many expected of him coming to South Carolina.

Vann played in 32 games in his first 3 seasons, but he had 377 career receiving yards. He has 144 yards this season and has established himself as the Gamecocks’ No. 1 receiver. He has clearly matured in the way he reacts to calls he doesn’t agree with, which happened a couple of times in Saturday’s 20-17 win over East Carolina, when Vann pulled down 5 catches for 117 yards, career highs in both categories.

Keep in mind, those numbers didn’t include a play that resulted in a fumble at the goal line, and another where Vann had a touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone overturned on review.

“I honestly don’t know what the refs saw, but college rules, you got one foot down. And it looked like I had it, but they said I bobbled it. I know I had that ball, but it is what it is,” Vann said. “I wish the first touchdown that I fumbled, I could have done way better holding onto the football.”

In the season opener, Vann made 2 catches for 27 yards.

“Other than that, just being able to have my team depend on me and my coaches depend on me where they know if it’s third down or any down where they can just call my number and get the ball in my hands, it’s really a proud moment for myself,” Vann said Saturday. “I shed a couple tears after the game. I’m just thankful. And that’s really it. I’m just thankful for the opportunity.”

While Vann shared that he doesn’t pay much attention to media outlets and discussions about the team, he was aware that the wide receiver position was a question mark coming into the season. He set out to change that.

“I guess it was just being able to show the world that I am a guy that can be depended on. I don’t really listen to the media as much, but I know everyone probably said our receiver room is unproven,” he said on Saturday. “Being able to show the world what I’m capable of as a player and what this offense can do is really game-changing.”

That leadership is something coach Shane Beamer looked for when he took the job, in the months that followed and as the roster evolved, and there were new faces at receiver.

“He’s been a great leader for us on and off the field,” Beamer said. “He’s very motivated, very driven, just really proud of him and the way he’s handled his business on and off the field since I got here.”

Vann has also drawn the respect of teammates, who notice what kind of player he is on the field and around the facility.

“Josh, he’s got some grit in him now,” QB Zeb Noland said. “He’s a tough joker. I know Josh has a lot going on at home, and he could have so many distractions, but that dude shows up every day. … I can trust him to do the right thing, and not that I can’t trust everybody else, but I know Josh knows football and he wants to do great. I know it might seem dumb, but he takes really, really good notes, and I know that because I’ve looked through them.”

In that postgame interview, Noland repeatedly referred back to the word “trust” in reference to Vann. That’s a word not many people would have used about him the last 3 years, especially in a tight game with a big throw coming.

They can now.