Kobe Smith cut in and caught an easy slant route going across the middle.
For a 7-on-7 extra point, the 2018 Gardena (Calif.) Serra receiver was thrown a jump ball. He leapt up over the defender, snagging the ball with his right hand and pulling it down for a one-handed score while the defender’s soft helmet flailed off as he stumbled to the ground.
On the next offensive possession, Smith faked out the defender with a comeback route, but the throw was late and thrown in the danger zone inside. Smith helped save his quarterback, fighting for the ball and ultimately catching the pass that was deflected by a diving corner, hit off Smith’s hands as he tried to scoop the low throw, bounced off the defender’s back where Smith snatched it as he was falling to his back for a catch.
The next ball thrown to Smith was high and away from him on a slant route, but he reached up and yanked in the ball once more. At every turn, Smith added more acrobatic catches. He ran a comeback and laid out to keep a short throw from hitting the ground.
His final catch was likely his most impressive. Smith pushed the Cover-2 safety high before breaking to the back pylon on a beautiful corner route. Even though he had worked his way open by multiple yards, the throw was long. Smith began raising his hands during his final two steps. He fully extended his arms in the middle of lunging stride. The tip of the ball hit the middle of his fingers on his right hand. He wrapped the left hand around the ball as well. Then his feet tapped down at the same time, giving him an NFL-worthy reception.
The 6-foot-2, 178-pound four-star said his strong performance — the best single game effort we’ve seen this spring — came from mimicking his namesake, Kobe Bryant: “It was just Mamba mentality -- finish the game off strong. Showed my ball-catching skills, route-running skills and ability to adjust to the ball. All types of things.”
He’s motivated this offseason by the perception that some seem to have of him making a highlight catch but then disappearing for stretches. It’s something he wants to flip.
“I want to change people's mindset,” Smith said. “I just want to be one of those people where if they say something about me, then the response will be, 'He's just a guy that goes hard all the time. You always see great plays from him. Nothing else.’”
One of the things Smith is focusing on this offseason is the mental aspect of the wide receiver position. He has worked on how to run his routes with two or three varieties based on how the defense is playing him.
“Looking at the DBs footing, looking at his alignment and stuff like that. So attention to detail.”
Those same details are what Smith will be paying attention to the next time he makes it up for a USC practice. He’s hoping to return to Howard Jones Field for one more practice before spring ball ends. He hoping to learn more specifics about the USC receiver positions.
“Just more about what they expect from their wide receivers and more of, not the physical play, but more of the mental state. How the receivers think. How they adjust to the coverages.”
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