By Jeff Owens/Photo by Juan Blas
South Carolina wide receiver coach Bryan McClendon has a nice problem on his hands.
He has three starters returning at wide receiver and tight end, and a host of young talented players backing them up. With so much talent, McClendon has the deepest position on the team.
Two players in particular have stood out so far in training camp as true freshmen OrTre Smith and Shi Smith are flashing their immense talent and turning heads.
While Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards return as starters, and Hayden Hurst is set at tight end, the Smiths are pushing for playing time. OrTre made some big catches in practice Tuesday and Shi is regarded as the fastest player on the team and is catching everything thrown his way.
"OrTe is a big body and he is using his body very well. He is throwing people around and making tough catches," said junior Terry Googer, the team's most experienced receiver.
"Shi is just explosive, quick. He knows how to use his body. Even though he is small of stature, he uses his body very well to get open. … He's special."
McClendon, the team's co-offensive coordinator with Kurt Roper, has been impressed with both his true freshmen. He expects to have six or seven receivers playing each week, and the two freshman likely will be in the mix.
OrTre, a 6-4, 219-pound freshman from Mount Pleasant, participated in spring practice but was hobbled by an injury. He has been healthy and picking things up quickly in training camp.
"The one thing I have been real impressed with is him just knowing what to do," McClendon said. "Him being here for so long has helped him. That's the biggest thing that slows young guys down is knowing what to do. … Them knowing and learning what to do has probably been the biggest thing that has impressed me so far."
Shi Smith, a 5-10, 179-pound freshman from Union, is known for his blazing speed and ability to get open.
"He has a lot of ability," McClendon said. "He is a talented guy."
Quarterback Jake Bentley has been impressed by both the Smiths.
"Shi Smith has really impressed us," he said. Tuesday. "He is really quick and he is picking up on the plays really well, too. He will be able to help us this year."
He also likes OrTre, who has the size and a body similar to Edwards, a 6-3 sophomore who shined as a freshman last year.
"He's playing fast and he knows the plays better," Bentley said. "He's a big dude. He's a big target."
Googer sees both freshman playing big roles on the offense.
"I see them playing a lot this year," he said. "We've got to take some pressure off of Deebo and Bryan so they can be at full strength when they come out and make plays."