The South Carolina Gamecocks have a top-flight-playmaker-sized hole in the middle of their offense.
Wide receiver Deebo Samuel is out for some length of time with a leg injury, and a potentially deep group of pass catchers will be asked to step up in a big way.
They’ve got the pedigree of recruiting rankings, and they also have the confidence of their coach.
“I think we have some capable guys,” Muschamp said. “Shi Smith is a freshman that does some nice things. OrTre (Smith) made a great catch there in the end zone. Bryan Edwards has been a very dependable guy. Our tight end group is somewhat of a wideout group. ... Next man up. That’s got to be our mentality.”
Shi Smith is the No. 4 pass catcher on the team, with seven catches and 80 yards. Edwards is a second-year starter, a productive talent with a penchant for winning 1-on-1 battles for jump balls.
Hayden Hurst is a star at tight end, while K.C. Crosby and Kiel Pollard can be solid receiver-types in the slot.
Randrecous Davis and Chad Terrell recorded catches against Kentucky.
In short, even if a lot of dynamic play-making goes with Samuel, there’s a lot of options to catch the ball.
An intriguing one is OrTre Smith. The 6-foot-4, 219-pound Wando product is massive but seems to be a little on the raw side. He’s played in all three games, and Saturday got his hands on the ball for the first time.
It wasn’t easy, as he went from one side of the field to the far corner of the end zone, concentrating enough to snag a ball and keep a foot or two in bounds. The 9-yard touchdown was a flash of talent, but Samuel’s uncertain status puts more on him and everyone else.
“It was a great play, great playcall,” Bentley said of the Smith TD. “He did an excellent job getting across the field, made a great catch. Huge play for him. He’s been working hard at practice all season, all offseason, so he’s definitely going to be a guy that has to step up now.”