College Sports

Muschamp ‘excited about’ another way he expects Shi Smith to get the ball this week

South Carolina football receiver Shi Smith was given some big shoes to fill at the start of the season.

But the Gamecocks junior hasn’t had the chance to put much wear on those shoes just yet.

Smith was tasked with replacing an all-timer of a kick returner in Deebo Samuel. He was a game-changer at that spot, and the USC coaches hoped Smith would be as well.

But the opportunities have been sparse, and Will Muschamp thinks that could change this week.

“Fortunately this week, they don’t kick it out of the end zone,” Muschamp said Thursday on his weekly call-in show. “He’s gonna have some opportunities on kickoff return.”

The past three opponents have kicked off 12 times and every one landed in the end zone. That’s after returning nine kicks in the opening three games.

Kyle Markway has a couple returns as an up back, while Smith has seven of them. He broke a 60-yarder against UNC, though he was bottled up against Alabama.

As a receiver, Smith has 23 catches for 234 yards and one touchdown, a good bit off his yardage pace from last year as his per-catch average has fallen from 15 to 10.2 yards.

Florida’s top kicker is only getting the ball to the end zone on 67.5 percent of his kicks.

From 2016-19, Samuel was a terror when he got in that position. He averaged 26.9 yards as a sophomore and 24.8 as a senior, with opponents often kicking away from him. In an injury-shortened junior season, he returned only two kicks, both for 97-yard touchdowns.

Smith hasn’t broken out any fireworks to that level, but soon enough he might get that chance.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him return some kicks,” Muschamp said. “Maybe just one, that would be good.”

West Coast raised. Midwest educated. Southern football indoctrinated. Covers most everything Gamecocks, primarily football.
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