Jamari Smith didn’t waste any time making an impression.
“(Jamari) had an interception tonight,” South Carolina secondary coach Grady Brown said after the Gamecocks’ second practice Monday. “I think he has the abilities to be a good defensive back. Just got to get him caught up on the system and everything we’re trying to do. I’m happy to have him.”
Smith switched positions Sunday, leaving a tailback rotation where he was at best fourth string and moving to cornerback. While he got much of his recruiting notice as a running back at Fletcher (Fla.) High, Smith also played corner during his prep career.
Headed for a redshirt if he stayed where he was, Smith met with the coaching staff and agreed to switch. It came the same day when cornerback Pharoh Cooper switched to wide receiver. Smith took Cooper’s old spot and his old jersey number (3).
Brown was impressed and said that Smith could make an impact. While Victor Hampton and Jimmy Legree are expected to have most of the snaps at cornerback, the position needs backups.
“Looked like it worked out well for both sides,” Brown said. “It’s just about getting guys in position where they can become the best players we believe they can be and help us win ballgames.”
Cooper will wear No. 11 on offense.
Freshman spur Mohamed Camara signed autographs at Sunday’s Fan Appreciation Day and was at Monday’s practice, although he couldn’t fully participate yet. NCAA rules stipulate that all players have to work their way up to full-pad practice; since Camara didn’t arrive until Saturday, he has to do two days in shorts and two days in shells until he can fully dress.
Camara, held back by one final grade in high school, was glad to be in Columbia.
“It was pretty frustrating,” he said. “It was only one class. I just needed to get it done as fast as I can. I just had to get it done and get up here, so it’s good to be here.”
Camara will battle for a position that could feature a rotation of Sharrod Golightly and Jordan Diggs, with Kyle Fleetwood also battling for a spot.
SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw visited with USC’s players to explain college football’s new targeting rules, which call for the immediate ejection of a player who is flagged for helmet-to-helmet contact or a hit on a defenseless player.
“We have to be more careful about how we hit players,” Legree said. “It’s just all about taking care of the players really, and we understand that. We will do our best to take care of everybody.”
Damiere Byrd joined the ranks of ailing Gamecocks with a hamstring problem, while backup center Clayton Stadnik wore a yellow jersey but lightly practiced in shoulder pads. Linebackers coach Kirk Botkin said Cedrick Cooper (dislocated elbow) may miss up to another week, but place-kicker Landon Ard, defensive tackles Phillip Dukes and J.T. Surratt and quarterback Connor Mitch returned to action. Linebacker Larenz Bryant has his sprained thumb taped but is practicing.
Players who did not practice or wore yellow jerseys: Byrd (hamstring), Stadnik, Chaz Sutton (sprained foot), James King (foot), Fleetwood (hamstring), Gerald Turner (ankle), Jadeveon Clowney (shoulder), Kyle Morini (dislocated elbow), Bruce Ellington (hamstring), Cooper (dislocated left elbow), Rory Anderson (hamstring), Mike Matulis (shoulder) and Cody Gibson (sprained right knee).
Just getting started
The Gamecocks had their first two-a-day session of the preseason. They are scheduled to have two more, on Thursday and Aug. 21.
The Gamecocks will practice again at 10 a.m. Tuesday. It is closed to the public.
Josh Kendall contributed to this report. Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState