USC Gamecocks Football

Will Muschamp made him a Gamecock. He’s made himself into a player who can harass QBs

USC defense’s biggest concerns against Tennessee

Will Muschamp speaks to the media during a press conference Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018, in Columbia, SC.
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Will Muschamp speaks to the media during a press conference Tuesday Oct. 23, 2018, in Columbia, SC.

A family recommendation brought Kobe Smith to South Carolina football.

The defensive tackle out of the Atlanta area had at one point been committed to Kentucky, all the way through Christmas of his senior season. But he left Mark Stoops’ class, and the pull of the Gamecocks’ newest coach went deep.

“My uncle used to play under Muschamp at Auburn, around 2007 and stuff,” Smith said. “I felt like this was the best place for me. I wanted to play under him since my uncle played under him.”

His progress in Columbia has been slow and measured, but in Year 3 in the program, Smith has developed into a reliable option with a defined role. He’s got a pair of slightly more established players starting in front of him, two four-stars working behind him.

And he’s caught the coaches’ eye, especially with the progress he’s made getting after the quarterback. Early in his career, Smith was primarily a run stuffer. This year, there have been more moments with the 6-foot-2, 295-pounder chasing a quarterback out of the pocket.

“I think I made a lot (of progress).” Smith said. “I feel like last year I was more stationary, but this year I feel like I’m more vertical and using a lot more of my moves.”

For the season, he’s got three QB hurries along with 15 tackles. He’s settled in nicely as the No. 3 tackle behind Keir Thomas and Javon Kinlaw (he was No. 4 last season and played snaps here and there as a freshman). Behind him, four-star freshmen Rick Sandidge and Kingsley Enagbare are getting steady work.

“I think Kobe is playing really well,” Muschamp said. “Kobe is a guy that guy pressure on the quarterback several times. Just continues to improve and get more and more snaps moving forward.”

The soft-spoken junior said his progress came from simply working on his craft. He’s gotten positive feedback from his coaches, recognizing the progress he’s made.

Of those top five tackles, he was probably the least heralded recruit. He came in as a strong, big body, but wanted to be something more and has slowly built himself toward that.

“I just wanted to develop myself into more of a pass rusher,” he said. “I knew I was a run-stuffer from the start.”