Gamecocks Senior Shi Smith is Ready to Shine

Gamecocks senior Shi Smith
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - AUGUST 31: Shi Smith #13 of the South Carolina Gamecocks makes a catch against Myles Dorn #1 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the Belk College Kickoff game at Bank of America Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

For the past two seasons, South Carolina has entered the year with a senior wide receiver set to be the team’s top play-maker. Following in the footsteps of Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards, 2020 will be Shi Smith’s time to shine. The Gamecocks senior is the only established pass catcher on the roster heading into this fall. Considering the struggles this offense had near the end of last season, his production will be a key to turning things around. Now, Gamecocks Senior Shi Smith is Ready to Shine.

Gamecocks Senior Shi Smith Ready To Shine

The senior from Union, SC has been a solid contributor over his first three years in Columbia. He has shown flashes of his talents while playing in the shadow of the two aforementioned star teammates. Smith can play in the slot or out wide, and has proven to have reliable hands when the ball is thrown his way. He has also shown he has the moves to turn a simple play into a big gainer by leaving defenders in his wake.  Now he will be the main guy in this offense, and it’s his time to showcase all of his skills.

Body Of Work

Smith played in 12 games as a freshman. He was at best the fourth option on a team with Samuel, Edwards, and tight end Hayden Hurst. His touchdown catch on a fade route out of the slot against Michigan helped spark a comeback from 19-3 down in the third quarter. As a sophomore he put up his best numbers, with career highs in catches, yards, and touchdowns. He had two 100 yard games in 2018 and caught at least two passes in all eleven games he appeared in. The South Carolina offense struggled last season, and Smith’s numbers took a dip because of it. He did have a career day in a loss to Tennessee, with 11 catches for 156 yards. Heading into 2020, the Gamecocks senior has 117 receptions for 1571 yards in 33 career games.

Support System

South Carolina will have a new offense in 2020, with Mike Bobo taking over as offensive coordinator. Smith will likely be the focal point of the attack, but others will need to step up to help carry the load. Ryan Hilinski returns at quarterback for his sophomore season. His experience as a freshman, plus being fully healthy should accelerate his learning curve. Josh Vann and Ortre Smith are the two most productive of the other returning receivers. Both will need to step their games up this season. Each of them has played a ton of snaps in garnet and black, but neither has truly broken out to showcase their abilities.

Xavier Leggette has the play making ability that the Gamecocks sorely need, but he needs to learn the intricacies of the receiver position.  He began the transition from high school quarterback to college wide out last year as a true freshman. Tight End Nick Muse showed flashes that he could be a very productive player in 2019. Unfortunately a knee injury against Vanderbilt ended his campaign. South Carolina will need him to be full strength if they want to get the most out of their offense.

One Last Ride

Smith has the experience, skill set, and versatility to be the main man for South Carolina’s offense. The Gamecocks senior will be looking to move out of the shadow of his former star teammates, and begin to cast one of his own. His ability with the ball in his hands after the catch needs to become more a factor this season. Smith has shown he can leave defenders grasping at air with his shiftiness. The Gamecocks need to get him the ball in space more often. Last season he also showed he could be a factor on special teams, averaging 22 yards per kickoff return. As is role increases, his explosiveness should be on display much more during his senior season.

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