Chris Smith signed his financial grant in aid and will enroll at South Carolina for the spring semester, the school announced on Wednesday.
Smith, the South Pointe Shrine Bowl cornerback, committed to play football for the Gamecocks in May of 2015. When Will Muschamp was hired as the school’s new football coach, replacing Steve Spurrier and interim coach Shawn Elliott, it looked like Smith’s plan to enroll mid-year wouldn’t work out because of the number of offers that the Gamecocks already had out. If those guys all accepted, there wouldn’t be room; if they didn’t, Smith could enroll early.
As happens annually in college football, a new coach arrived with new recruiting targets, jumbling the board for nearly every South Carolina recruit from the previous regime, Smith included. Muschamp told South Pointe coach Strait Herron that they wanted to inform Smith of their situation earlier, but that they decided not to since he was at the Shrine Bowl.
“Chris’s mom and I were talking and that’s the one thing she kept talking about, it’s a business, it’s about winning,” said Herron.
While understandable, the sudden spasm left Smith in scramble mode. Would he be able to find a school for the spring semester? Would he be stuck at home with nowhere to go? Would he end up in Columbia?
All of those questions were in Herron’s mind as he cobbled together a Plan B. He was on the phone with a coach from Georgia Tech, telling him about Smith’s situation. The coach called back later and said Tech would take Smith as a midyear enrollee. South Pointe guidance counselors spoke with Georgia Tech admissions and Herron offered to take Smith down to Atlanta personally for a visit.
Herron remembers Smith never saying a word, negatively or positively.
But before any of that really got rolling, Muschamp called Herron back. He told Herron, “coach, we’ve got a defensive lineman that we’ve been talking to and he’s hem-hawing around and I’m tired of dealing with it, so I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got a kid in Rock Hill who wants to be down here and wants to be a Gamecock, then we’re gonna get him down here.’”
It was a relief for Smith, who made 40 tackles and two interceptions in an injury-nagged senior season for the Stallions. Both picks came in the 3A playoff game at Seneca:
As a junior, he caught seven passes for a 22-yard average and two touchdowns, and also made 70 tackles with five interceptions. Both years he helped South Pointe to 3A state titles, and - after showing ability on both sides of the ball - it’s not entirely clear what position he might play for the Gamecocks.
Smith has impressed on the field the last couple of seasons, but Herron was struck by how he handled the trying situation with South Carolina. Despite never even committing to a Georgia Tech visit, Smith called the coach in Atlanta that was interested to thank him for the interest.
“It just shows what kind of character he has,” Herron said. “He’s a class act.”
A strong student, Smith graduated from high school in mid-December and becomes the fourth new high school football player to enroll early. Conway wide receiver Bryan Edwards, North Carolina running back C.J. Freeman and New Jersey quarterback standout Brandon McIlwain are the others to arrive in Columbia for the spring semester.
Once South Pointe’s guidance department faxed the final paperwork to South Carolina director of recruiting operations Robbie Liles earlier this week and Herron received confirmation, Smith walked out of his coach’s office a Gamecock. He had the look of a person that just exited a recruiting roller coaster.
“That’s one of the few times I’ve ever seen him smile,” said Herron. “He had a grin from ear to ear. He was ready to hit the road.”
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