It wasn't but a few short years ago when Bruce Ellington decided to walk-on to the football team and see if he can become one of the elusive two-sport stars in college athletics.
As he heads into Year Three with the Gamecocks' football team, Ellington has since become the leader that he's shown during his three years with the Gamecocks basketball team.
It's safe to success that this experiment has been quite a success for the Gamecocks and Bruce Ellington.
Ellington missed Tuesday night's practice with a slight hamstring pull and his position coach, Steve Spurrier Jr., spoke at lengths Tuesday night about how much Ellington is missed on the field now that he's the leader of the group.
"He's fine. He's doing all right. But I want him out here, I want his voice out here," said Coach Spurrier Jr. on Tuesday. "I want him seen. I want him being active. Not having him here brings our group down a little bit. Hopefully, he'll learn a little bit more too. He needs to. This is the first year I'm asking him to lead. This is the year he has a chance to be somebody not only this group looks up to, but the entire team. So, I want to see him, hear him and I want him to know everything he does the team watches him."
As you can see, Spurrier Jr. expects Bruce Ellington to become the leader of an inexperienced group and not having him around the younger, inexperienced players hurts the group overall.
This past season, Ellington had 40 catches for 600 yards and seven touchdowns. The next closest returning receiver from last year's team? Damiere Byrd with 14 catches.
The versatility Ellington brings to the table allows him to move within the receiver spots as he's gotten more comfortable with the offense. He also can play the Wildcat quarterback role, which he did during his freshman season at times for South Carolina.
Having him on the team makes the South Carolina wide receivers better but the time away does allow for other receivers to gain valuable reps. The Gamecocks are hoping for more production from Damiere Byrd, Shaq Roland and a few other young players who have seen limited time on the field during their careers.
The Gamecocks top receiving options right now appear to be Ellington, Byrd and Nick Jones. All three players though are considered shorter wide receivers all standing 5'9" tall or shorter. It's imperative for Roland, Kwinton Smith and K.J. Brent to take advantage of these opportunities and showcase their ability to make the jump ball catch. It's an element missing from this offense at the wide receiver position since Alshon Jeffery so the emergence of these three players could certainly take some of the burden off of Ellington.
Last season, the Gamecocks were led by their diminutive wide receiver in Ace Sanders. Sanders showed that you can still make a large impact being a shorter receiver and it appears that Ellington will take on that role now for South Carolina.
It's time for Ellington to shine.