D.J. Smith of Marietta (Ga.) Walton signed his National Letter of intent to play for South Carolina on Wednesday, and the four-star cornerback will be in prime position to vie for playing time as a true freshman. The Gamecocks will begin the 2014 football season with a virtually unknown and inexperienced depth chart at the cornerback position, and the No. 20 cornerback in the 2014 class has the size and athleticism to make an immediate impact.
Smith is regarded as the 15th-best player in the state of Georgia and the No. 200 overall prospect in the 2014 according to the 247Sports Composite Index. He was recruited to South Carolina by fellow Walton High School alum G.A. Mangus and committed to the Gamecocks on Jan. 13 over offers from Tennessee, Clemson, Georgia, and 15 other Division I programs.
The 6'1, 191-pound defensive back will begin his career at cornerback, a position of need for South Carolina, but his biggest upside might be as a safety. During his career at Walton, Smith played both defensive back and running back and is a game-changing playmaker in the secondary. Smith's film shows that he is big-bodied physical player with great closing speed. He also has a knack for shedding blockers, which makes him exceptional in run support.
Though his coverage skills still must be developed, Smith possesses great size and tackling ability, which he will look to parlay into meaningful playing time as a true freshman. Defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward likes to recruit athletes that can be double-trained to play multiple positions in the secondary, and Smith certainly fits that bill. Once he gains meaningful playing experience and improves his coverage skills, he will have the chance to be a very solid contributor in the secondary for many years.
Given the departures of Jimmy Legree and Victor Hampton to the NFL and the transfer of Ahmad Christian, Smith will be counted on to hit the ground running--er, covering--upon his arrival in Columbia. Rico McWilliams, Ali Groves, Ronnie Martin, and former walk-on Sidney Rhodes are the only scholarship cornerbacks currently on the roster. Running back Jamari Smith will be moved back to corner starting in spring practice, and current safety Brison Williams will also see some reps at cornerback.
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