Of all the coups Will Muschamp pulled off in his first year at South Carolina, one of his biggest accomplishments to date was his recruitment of wide receiver OrTre Smith to the Gamecocks. Smith, the highest ranked player in the state of South Carolina for the 2017 class, as recently as when Muschamp took the job in the fall of 2015, was considered a heavy Clemson lean. His mother, Tashia Greene, had played volleyball at Clemson in the late 1980’s and most people, including the most ardent Carolina supporters agreed - landing OrTre was a long shot at best for a struggling program coming off of a 3-9 year. Obviously, some things changed.
For one, Clemson didn’t exactly treat the best player in the state with a great deal of priority. They aimed for other targets at wide receiver first, and slow-played Smith instead of immediately going after his commitment with everything they had. This certainly helped the Gamecocks’ case.
The second change, and the more important one, was that Will Muschamp himself took over Smith’s recruitment as soon as he landed in Columbia, and his ways were drastically different from those of Steve Spurrier. Muschamp puts the clamps on Smith almost immediately, and made it clear to him from day one that he was the Gamecocks’ number one guy.
Over time, the Gamecocks relentless recruiting began to pay off. Rumors began to trickle in that, perhaps, Smith wasn’t as dead-set on Clemson as once thought. Slowly but surely, South Carolina turned the tide. Granted, OrTre made Gamecock Nation sweat it out until his birthday celebration on September 11, 2016, where, despite a late push by his once-favorite Clemson Tigers, he finally committed to South Carolina. He has never wavered since.
How he fits:
For starters, the Gamecocks simply need more talent and more playmakers across the board on both sides of the ball. While there was offensive progress in 2016, talent isn’t replaced overnight, and South Carolina has to add better players to its roster in order to get back to the level of program it once was. Smith immediately fits that bill from the minute he steps on campus. Athletically gifted at 6’4, OrTre wasn’t the highest-rated player in the state for nothing. He is a big-time wide out who can go up and get the ball with the best of them. He will fit nicely beside guys like Bryan Edwards, Randrecous Davis, Chavis Dawkins, Korey Banks, Shi Smith and others into the young receiver nucleus that the Gamecocks are putting together. He also gives South Carolina another big target at receiver outside of Edwards and tight end Hayden Hurst.
Will he contribute as a true freshman?
Mark it down as “to be determined.” A lot will depend on how he looks and plays during his early time on campus. Most freshmen who are able to contribute in college football, especially at positions like wide receiver, do so because they benefited greatly from enrolling early and getting an extra six to seven months of time in the program. OrTre will be no different. If he can use this early time to learn the playbook, get better acclimated to the college game and it’s speed, as well as develop some chemistry with quarterback Jake Bentley, then his talent may be difficult to keep off of the field. There are still hurdles to overcome for him on the road to immediate playing time, though. With guys like Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards already establishing themselves, along with other receivers like Dawkins, Banks, Davis, Shi Smith, etc. there should be a great deal of competition for the last couple of spots in the rotation at receiver this offseason. OrTre certainly has the talent to earn one of those spots as a freshman, it will just be a matter of how well he comes along this offseason. At this point though, he is not a definite redshirt for the Gamecocks, which means he’s got a shot to contribute if it all comes together.
Long term outlook:
OrTre is one of the most talented receivers the Gamecocks have brought in in the last several years. If he develops as expected and gels with quarterback Jake Bentley, Smith is going to be a key contributor to the Gamecocks’ success on offense during his time at Carolina. He has the talent to be a legitimate go-to SEC wideout.