South Carolina WR prepares for sophomore season; Gamecocks announce nonconference series

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Encore

South Carolina Gamecocks wide receiver OrTre Smith is ready for the follow-up to his fantastic freshman campaign .

“I felt like I did well, but I could’ve done better on certain stuff, like watching film, blocking-wise,” he said. “This year, I’m working on playing until the whistle blows and just doing what I’m supposed to do.”

Smith was No. 3 on the team in receptions last year, with 30 catches for 326 yards and 3 touchdowns.

A former 4-star prospect in the Class of 2017, Smith was rated as the No. 1 overall player in the Palmetto State, according to the 247Sports composite rankings.

New foe

South Carolina announced on Thursday that the football team will play a three-game set against Appalachian State .

The Gamecocks will host the Mountaineers in 2019 and 2027, and head to Boone, N.C., in 2025.

The two teams haven’t met in football since 1988, a 35-9 South Carolina win at Williams-Brice Stadium. The Gamecocks lead the all-time series 8-1.

In the mix

South Carolina is among the top suitors for 3-star linebacker and 2019 prospect Jamie Pettway .

“It’s crazy. The atmosphere is crazy. It’s one of a kind. I haven’t seen anything like that before, until I got there,” Pettway said after visiting Columbia, S.C., last April for the Garnet & Black Spring Game.

In addition to South Carolina, the Westover High School (Albany, Ga.) standout lists offers from Maryland, East Carolina, Tennessee and more. He’s rated as the No. 43 outside linebacker for 2019, according to the 247Sports composite.

Thanks, but no thanks

Despite a report linking him to the vacant coaching position at Connecticut, South Carolina men’s basketball coach Frank Martin insists he’s not interested .

“Of course not,” Martin told The Post and Courier when asked if the rumors were true.

Martin is 113-90 in six seasons in Columbia. He led the Gamecocks in 2017 to their first Final Four.

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‘What can we improve?’

First-year South Carolina baseball coach Mark Kingston wants to get the Gamecocks back to the top of the college baseball mountain.

“The big key here is you can’t do better than what South Carolina has done in the past,” Kingston told Michael Lananna of Baseball America . “Because the best you can do is win a national championship — so we’re trying to duplicate that. . . . Wherever you are, whether it’s South Carolina or Stanford or Texas, you have to ask yourself, whatever you have, is it being maximized?”

“And so from the day I got here, I’ve just tried to look at everything and say, ‘What can we improve?’ What is up to par and doesn’t need to be touched? What needs to be tweaked a little bit? What needs to revert back to what it was in 2010 and 2011?”

The Gamecocks (12-5) start SEC play this weekend with a three-game home series against the No. 2-ranked Florida Gators. Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. ET Friday at Founders Park.

Houston Gamecocks

Former South Carolina football stars Bruce Ellington and Johnathan Joseph will return to the Houston Texans in 2018.

Ellington, originally a fourth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in the 2014 NFL Draft, signed a one-year deal with the Texans on Thursday, according to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport .

The wide receiver joined the team in September after being cut by the San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets. He finished 2017 with career highs in catches (29) and yards (330), along with 2 touchdowns.

Joseph, a 12-year veteran and former Pro Bowl cornerback, signed a new two-year deal with the team on Thursday. The Rock Hill, S.C., native was a first-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2006. He had 57 total tackles, 9 passes defensed and 2 interceptions last season.

Who’s ready?

The No. 2-seeded South Carolina’s women’s basketball team returns to Colonial Life Arena on Friday night for its first-round NCAA Tournament game against No. 15 seed North Carolina A&T.

The Gamecocks (26-6) are riding high after winning their fourth consecutive SEC Tournament title on March 4.

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