The hardest job for co-offensive coordinator Bryan McClendon in 2017 could be deciding which receivers to have on the field.
Along with Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards poised for breakout seasons, and Randrecous Davis looking to have a healthy 2017 campaign, McClendon also has true freshmen OrTre Smith and Shi Smith, the state's top two players in their class, at his disposal.
OrTre, the larger of the two receivers, joined the team in January, but was hampered by an ankle injury he suffered during his senior season at Wando High School. Even though Smith was limited for some of spring practice, McClendon says being on campus early has been a great benefit for the freshman.
"The one thing I've been real impressed with (OrTre) is just knowing what to do," McClendon said after Tuesday's practice. "I think him being here for so long, it has helped him. That's the biggest thing that slows guys down, is knowing what to do."
OrTre, the heaviest receiver on the roster at 219 pounds, is putting significant effort into maintaining his weight, and he's already shed 10 pounds from the spring. Junior wideout Terry Googer says the freshman is "using his body very well," but McClendon emphasized the need to stay in shape.
“OrTre’s going to naturally be a big-bodied kid,” McClendon said. “So the biggest thing is just making sure we’re doing a great job of nutrition and making sure that 220, 225 pounds doesn’t turn into 240. Some of that is genetics. What we can help, we want to do that."
The weight isn't necessarily a major concern, however. As McClendon later pointed out, Alshon Jeffery, who he described as a "pretty good guy," was roughly 235 pounds during his college career.
Union County's Shi Smith didn't join the team until the summer, but Samuel already refers to him as the fastest player on the roster. Smith's athleticism makes him a threat with the ball in his hands, both on offense and special teams, and many expect him to see time in the slot.
However, McClendon made it clear Tuesday that he doesn't want Smith to be a one-trick pony.
"The best guys can be multiple," McClendon said when asked about where Shi might find playing time. "They can be moved around and not so much just locked into one spot in particular. Right now that's the goal in trying to kind of grow some of those guys to try to learn two or three different places.
"It's hard to say 'Hey, this guy's always right here' and that way people can take them out of the game if they choose to."
McClendon stressed that Shi has a lot of ability, but that freshmen are going to make freshman mistakes.
"We've just gotta make sure that we do a good job of getting him working, getting him caught up exactly how we need things done," McClendon said of Shi, "but he's a talent. He's a talented young guy."
Even with a solid group ahead of them, OrTre and Shi are expected to see the field during their true freshman seasons, as McClendon said that he'd like to have six or seven receivers available for game days, in his perfect world.