Josh Kendall

What Will Muschamp said about Shi Smith that he worried might cause ‘panic’

South Carolina football coach Will Muschamp scared some folks briefly during his Tuesday news conference.

Sophomore wide receiver Shi Smith “could go play corner or nickel or safety for us right now and be really, really good at it,” Muschamp said before a short pause. “He’s going to stay on offense. Nobody panic.”

Gamecocks quarterback Jake Bentley was probably on top of the panic list for a moment. Smith is emerging as an equal to veterans Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards in South Carolina’s receiving corps, which not many people would have guessed given how much is expected from Samuel and Edwards.

Smith, a 5-foot-10, 187-pounder who is considered the fastest player on the team, has 11 catches for 191 yards this year and leads the Gamecocks at 17.4 yards per reception. He caught five passes for 119 yards against Vanderbilt last week.

“He’s been a guy that I’ve been extremely pleased with how he came in and handled last year, being thrust into a very prominent role on our team when we lost Deebo (to injury),” Muschamp said. “You saw a very mature response in how he handled the spotlight and has continued to move forward, a very competitive young man.”

For Muschamp, South Carolina’s safeties coach, to say a player could be a defensive back is high praise, but he’s been impressed with Smith since the Gamecocks began recruiting him out of Union at the suggestion of former USC quarterback Steve Taneyhill.

“I loved (Smith’s) tape, but then you got him in camp and this guy is really, really fast, really fast on the top end, phenomenal ball skills, competitive, tough,” Muschamp said.