Under any other circumstances, Jamari Smith might be frustrated by making yet another position change. However, in 2016, moving to wide receiver on South Carolina’s football team is akin to winning the playing time lottery.
“I am just trying to get some playing time so wherever I am needed, I am there,” said Smith, a Jacksonville, Fla., native who has played cornerback and running back and briefly wide receiver in the previous two seasons.
He began spring as a running back, but was moved to wide receiver this week after South Carolina’s coaches determined they needed more playmakers on the perimeter.
“He’s got natural hands and some play-making ability, and we need to some help at the position so he’s going to play there,” head coach Will Muschamp said.
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South Carolina only returns two wide receivers with more than five catches, Deebo Samuel and Matrick Belton, and only Samuel and early enrollee wide receiver Bryan Edwards have proven enough to the new coaching staff to have a safe spot in the fall rotation.
“I have to be in the playbook 24-7. I have to get the plays down and everything, but moving into that slot position is going to help me a lot,” Smith said.
Sophomore Terry Googer, who caught five passes last season, believes the Gamecocks’ wide receivers will outperform their expectations.
“Everyone has impressed the coaches, I feel like,” Googer said. “They say in the meetings that we are improving each day so that’s a good thing to hear. I have improved since last year but everyone has, so it’s a good competition right now. Everyone out here is just trying to prove themselves worthy of playing on Saturdays and helping out the team.”
Thursday’s open practice wasn’t a good day for South Carolina’s wide receivers, who struggled with dropped passes.
“We have to get that cleaned up,” Muschamp said. “We had some opportunities there in one minute to get the ball moving. We need to catch the ball better on the perimeter.”
Wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon has been supportive of his group, Googer said.
“He knows everyone is good enough to play,” Googer said. “We just have to prove to him that we are going to go out there and compete. I feel like everyone has the attributes to be good and great at the SEC level. We just have to come out here and prove everyone wrong, which we are very capable of doing.”
Smith, who has moved to the wide receivers room during team meetings, agreed.
“We push each other,” he said. “We practice very hard. Guys just fight.”