Had South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery been eligible to declare for the 2011 NFL Draft, many observers believe he would have joined fellow SEC receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones among the top 10 picks.
A year later, draft analysts are deeply divided on where Jeffery should fall in the top 10 – the top 10 wide receivers, that is.
Few prospects have been as talked about heading into the draft as much as Jeffery, and even fewer have been subject to as much criticism.
From his statistical drop from 2010 to 2011, to his apparent need to drop pounds, Jeffery has been a hot topic for all the wrong reasons. Through it all, he's worked to keep his focus on football.
"I don't really pay attention to that," Jeffery said. "Anyone can write anything they want on the Internet."
Leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine, rumors ran rampant that the 6-3 Jeffery was significantly out of shape. When he showed up at the combine, however, he weighed in at an encouraging 216 pounds, and he weighed 213 at his pro day a month later.
At the combine, he said he played at 230 pounds last season. Now, the St. Matthews, S.C., native is down to his high school playing weight.
"I think that was too heavy for me," Jeffery said. "It didn't affect me, really, but I now just feel more in shape and better.
"When I get to the NFL, I've got to make a better transition, so I think 215 is going to be a lot better for me."
A year ago, the only numbers getting much attention were the astounding ones Jeffery compiled on the field. As a sophomore in 2010, Jeffery amassed school records for receptions (88) and yardage (1,517) to become one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award that goes annually to college football's top receiver.
Jeffery, who didn't have a redshirt year at South Carolina, wasn't eligible for last year's draft, but staying in college made him a potential Heisman Trophy candidate heading into last season. He adorned the cover of Sports Illustrated's college football preview issue along with presumed top-five picks Andrew Luck and Trent Richardson, but only Jeffery appeared to be jinxed by it.
He still had his moments, like his remarkable Hail Mary touchdown grab at the end of the first half in the Capital One Bowl, but they were fewer and farther between. His stats were only half as impressive as the previous season, with 49 catches for 762 yards.
Factors beyond Jeffery's control, however, played a role. Starting quarterback Stephen Garcia was kicked off the team midway through the season, and defenses geared up for Jeffery and forced the Gamecocks to look elsewhere at times.
They did so with great success, winning 11 games for the first time in school history.
"It (Garcia's dismissal) impacted the whole team, but we just had to make an adjustment, and we had a great season," Jeffery said. "We had a game plan about how teams were going to play me. They would put a safety over the top, so we went with the game plan we felt was going win us the game."
Opinions remain split on Jeffery, but he's acquitted himself well from the combine on. Now, he's determined to show everyone that he's the receiver everyone fell in love with in 2010 rather than the receiver that fell out of favor in 2011.
"If I'm fortunate enough to be drafted by an NFL team, I'm going to bring a great attitude and energy, and just go out and work hard make everyone around me better and push myself," Jeffery said. "I work hard, and I learn really fast. I just want to be one of the best players ever."