COLUMBIA, SC (TheBigSpur) - South Carolina sophomore Kane Whitehurst sprinted onto the scene this summer when testing numbers were released. The walk-on wide receiver posted the second-fastest time in the 40-yard dash behind only United States sprinter and fellow wideout Damiere Byrd.
Following his sprint into the spotlight, Whitehurst slipped back into the shadows a little bit once fall practice started. He was trying to find his place in the receiving corps bouncing around at all three receiver groups.
Whitehurst, who enrolled in Fall 2012 but had to sit out the NCAA-mandatory one year after his transfer from Arkansas, didn't go through his first practice with the Gamecocks until this fall. A shoulder injury sidelined him from his arrival all the way through spring practice.
Just as quickly as he made a name for himself during summer testing, he exploded back onto the scene the very first game of the year against North Carolina. On what was just his third play from scrimmage in his career, Whitehurst cut across the field on a deep out route and quarterback Dylan Thompson, on the field for his first play of 2013, found him.
Whitehurst hauled in the 29-yard touchdown pass, which gave the Gamecocks a 21-0 lead over North Carolina. It was the only time Whitehurst was targeted in the game but he had another chance for a big play the next week against his home state school - the Georgia Bulldogs.
Quarterback Connor Shaw's pass towards the end zone hit off Whitehurst's fingertips and fell to the ground. It was a tough catch to make but the sophomore hasn't been on the field much since that play.
The few opportunities don't have Whitehurst dejected. He's stayed the course, practiced hard and has positioned himself to earn another chance on the field.
"I just kind of keep playing," Whitehurst said following Wednesday's practice as the team prepares for Saturday's noon game against Central Florida. "I have to be ready when my number is called. All you can really do is be ready when you're called upon."
Even though Whitehurst is listed as the third-team receiver at the "Z" position, which plays in the slot in South Carolina's offense, the Duluth, Ga. native has practiced predominately at the "B" position, which is one of the outside receiver spots.
Whitehurst is running third team behind junior Nick Jones and redshirt freshman Kwinton Smith but wide receivers coach Steve Spurrier Jr. has a couple of plays designed specifically for his speedster.
"Kane is a guy who has played well but hasn't gotten a lot of opportunity," Spurrier Jr. said. "He can probably play some more. Hopefully he'll be able to get in there some."
Whitehurst is pushing for more opportunities with his play in practice. He knows that chances for a third-teamer to make an impact on a game are limited so he will need to make the most of those breaks when they're put before him.
The wide receivers are playing well so far this season and offensive production has been strong averaging just over 30 points per game. Jones, ahead of Whitehurst on the depth chart at the "B" position, leads the team in catches (11) and touchdowns (3). Junior Bruce Ellington has 10 catches for 141 yards and a score. Sophomore Shaq Roland is third on the team with eight grabs and a team-high 161 yards receiving.
Add in Byrd and a pair of running backs who have caught the football well out of the backfield and the Gamecocks (2-1) have a potent passing attack.
"We have a bunch of really good receivers. We probably have eight or nine guys ready to go when called upon," Whitehurst said. "I feel like we have a group of guys who are capable of making plays. Shaq, Bruce and Nick have been out there more than some of the other guys but we have a really deep group."
Don't be surprised if Whitehurst makes an impact on the field again soon. Just don't blink; he's has a proven to quickly crop up seemingly out of nowhere.