Darin Smalls has a few R words in his vocabulary these days, and redshirt isn't one of them.
Smalls' recovery from an ACL tear in September is on schedule. The rehab on his injured left knee is going well.
Smalls, a South Carolina defensive back signee from Summerville, is ready to practice and play football again.
"I think I'm capable to where I can just go out there and play," he said. "If I had to redshirt, I will. Going up there I don't want to redshirt. I'll have to go back in the weight room and build everything back up and get my speed back up."
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Smalls signed with the Gamecocks on Feb. 5, almost five months after an ACL tear suffered in a Sept. 13 game against Goose Creek.
He was recently cleared to jog and hopes to resume sprinting in March or April.
"My leg is getting there," he said. "It's not 100 percent yet. I'll be back. I'm pretty close."
Smalls was off to a hot start with the Green Wave before his injury. He had 10 tackles, returned an interception for a touchdown, scored on a 76-yard reception and scored twice on punt returns.
"I was doing pretty good," he said. "This probably would have been my best season here at Summerville."
His first thought after the injury, he said, was USC and the scholarship offer. But he would soon hear reassuring words from recruiter Everette Sands, future position coach Grady Brown and head coach Steve Spurrier.
"They just kept telling me to keep going hard at rehab and stay in it until I get up to USC," he said. "My mind has been focused on school. After I talked to Coach Spurrier and he said everything was fine, I went back to focusing on hitting the books and getting my grades up."
Smalls, the highest-rated instate defensive back in this class, picked USC over offers from Clemson, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Tennessee, Oklahoma and others. He was a consensus three-star prospect.
As a junior, he had 58 tackles and five interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns. He also had more than 600 return yards and three scores. He had six interceptions as a sophomore.
And he's fast. His 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash is the best of USC's 21 signees, according to Rivals.
Smalls has handled the setback as well as you would expect for an 18-year-old, said Summerville secondary coach Steve Wilson.
"South Carolina is getting a good one," Wilson said. "He's the kind of kid that really knows the game and likes the game. He studies the game. When we lost him the third game this past year, it hurt us in more ways than just losing him out of the secondary - his punt return abilities, the kickoff return abilities, his leadership."
Smalls is excited about USC's defensive backs class that includes four other players.
"We have some beasts coming to USC," he said. "All these other SEC schools better watch out. I'm happy that I'm part of it."
Smalls is looking forward to getting to USC so he can work with the school's trainers and rehabilitation staff. He said he wants "really bad" to be able to take part in all the team workouts once he gets to USC in June.
"That's one of my main goals," he said. "I'm hoping that after doing rehab now that when I get up there I'll be good to go."