It’s time to stop and appreciate the season Xavier Legette is having for South Carolina

When Alshon Jeffery committed to South Carolina on signing day in February 2009, dozens of reporters squeezed into a packed Calhoun County High School gymnasium to cover the event.

When Xavier Legette committed to USC out of Mullins High School in December 2018, he announced his decision via a Friday night social media post.

Legette, the Gamecocks’ top receiver in 2023, drew comparisons to Jeffery after a nearly 200-yard performance in USC’s 37-30 win Saturday over Mississippi State. It also happened to be the night South Carolina retired Jeffery’s jersey, making him the first wide receiver to earn the honor from the school.

When asked how similar his style of play is to the best receiver in Gamecocks history, a coy grin spread across Legette’s face.

“It is motivation for me,” Legette said. “He was a great player. And I watched him growing up. I will say I try to play like him a little bit.”

When in Legette’s presence, it’s hard to keep from smiling, whether it’s watching him explode on the field for a 76-yard touchdown or sitting across from him during postgame interviews as he breaks down what he saw on said pass — it was “straight green grass,” by the way. This is a young man who is beyond happy he used his fifth year of eligibility to stay at USC.

Legette’s coaches and teammates take every opportunity possible to praise his work ethic and skillset. Coach Shane Beamer sounds like a broken record — it’s OK to say that about Beamer because he agrees — bringing up Legette’s speed and doggedness in practice. Quarterback Spencer Rattler knows he can throw the ball up and rely on Legette to come down with it, an everyday occurrence in practice, he says..

Special teams coordinator Pete Lembo believes if Legette can continue such stellar play at wide receiver and gunner (he’s also averaging 20.5 yards per kick return), his NFL Draft stock will rise tremendously.

After the game Saturday, Beamer used Jeffery — whom Beamer recruited to USC when he worked under Steve Spurrier — to send in-state recruits a message: “Learn from Alshon and stay home. Come play for the University of South Carolina. ... Accomplish all your dreams on and off the field.”

If Jeffery’s four-year career isn’t enough to convince them, Legette’s four games this season should help prove Beamer’s point.

With 27 catches for 556 and three touchdowns so far this year, Legette is better than on pace to become South Carolina’s first 1,000-yard receiver in nine years (last was Pharoh Cooper in 2014 with 1,136). Jeffery, too, recorded a program-best 1,517 yards in South Carolina’s historic 2010 SEC East championship season.

It’s cliché, but sometimes folks just don’t know what they have until it’s gone. Gamecock fans shouldn’t let Legette’s 2023 season be one of those times.