The former four-star recruit has seen a rocky road the past half year, having a season end prematurely with a genetic knee issue. He started 10 games in place of Deebo Samuel as a true freshman, and his coach sounded upbeat about what’s coming next.
“OrTre has been cleared,” Muschamp said. “He’s doing everything. Really pleased with his rehab and how that’s gone.”
Smith had been limited in spring practice and didn’t go in the spring game.
Smith came to Columbia as the No. 127 player in the country by the 247 Sports composite rankings. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, he was a towering force in high school, despite a knee injury that truncated his senior season.
He got the chance most true freshmen in college dream about — inserted into the starting lineup. He posted modest numbers (30 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns) as part of a nine-win team.
He caught three passes in South Carolina’s 2018 opener but hardly played in the second game. In late September, Muschamp announced Smith was done for the season.
In going through that, Muschamp saw some personal growth from his talented player.
“When you take away something that is very important to you, sometimes you take that for granted,” Muschamp said. “I think he understands that. He had a very frustrating fall. He’s been a very successful player, obviously.
“To have the setback ... it’s very frustrating. I think there’s certainly a maturing process that you go through.”
If Smith comes back full strength, he looks like a favorite to reclaim his starting position. The Gamecocks have Shi Smith and Bryan Edwards back as starters, but behind them, there are mostly question marks in the players with a few years under their belts.
▪ Muschamp said there’s still no update on the arrival of prep school wide receiver Tyquan Johnson who was supposed to arrive in January. He added he expects most of the rest of the 2019 class will arrive for the Summer I session, allowing for a few stragglers that seem to happen every year.
▪ The coach said he expects offensive lineman Zack Bailey will make an NFL roster after being undrafted following a broken leg late in the year. He signed with Tampa Bay.