South Carolina sophomore receiver OrTre Smith will undergo season-ending knee surgery this Friday, Gamecocks head coach Will Muschamp revealed last Tuesday.
“A genetic issue on his knee,” Muschamp explained. “It’s a subluxed knee cap. It slides out about 40 percent. It is very, very painful.”
Subluxation is the temporary dislocation of the knee cap. It can cause pain, stiffness and swelling. Repeated dislocation can damage cartilage on the back of the knee cap and stretch connective ligaments.
Smith, a 2017 Wando High School graduate, had tallied three catches for 25 yards in his two appearances this season. He traveled with the team to Vanderbilt two weeks ago but didn’t play. Muschamp says Smith’s condition has been visibly hampering the former high school all-American since August.
“OrTre never complains about anything,” Muschamp said. “It’s something he’s been dealing with over a long period of time, obviously, but certainly has really affected him since training camp. He’s had a hard time with it.”
Coaches would ask Smith, “You OK?” To which Smith would respond “I’m good. I’m good. I’m good.”
“It doesn’t look like he’s good,” Muschamp said. “Eventually, he finally divulged to us it’s been hurting a lot and he’s been in a lot of pain. So it’s been very frustrating.”
Coaches and trainers explored various options before resorting to surgery, Muschamp said.
“We’ve exhausted about every measure we could medically to alleviate the pain,” he explained. “Days off and different things. I’m extremely frustrated for him. I know he’s been extremely frustrated this fall not playing at his full-go potential.”
Smith logged 30 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns, making 10 starts as a freshman after Deebo Samuel broke his leg three games into last season. Samuel said he would make sure he talked to Smith about keeping his head up.
“Just don’t let this get you down,” Samuel said he would tell Smith. “You have to attack rehab like you attack practice.”
Muschamp was unsure of the expected recovery time but said he “absolutely” expects Smith back by the spring. Muschamp spoke with Smith’s mother, former Clemson volleyball player Tashia Green, last Monday after a CT scan revealed surgery would be required. Green told Muschamp that she’d dealt with a similar issue during her playing career.
“I think this is the first time I’ve had a player that’s had this sort of issue,” Muschamp said. “I talked to Tashia, his momma, last night. She actually is an athlete. Her kneecap is the same way. Just really frustrated for him. As an athlete, the worst thing you do, especially at the receiver position, is take a young man’s legs away.”
Smith was a four-star recruit, ranked as the top player in the state and No. 19 receiver in the nation, out of Wando. His senior season was cut short with three games remaining due to an ankle injury that eventually required surgery.
Smith is still eligible to redshirt this season, having played in just two games. The NCAA introduced a new rule this season allowing players who’ve appeared in four games or less to still redshirt that season.