Opportunity knocks for Shi Smith at Panthers training camp in 2021

(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith
(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) Shi Smith /

Carolina Panthers training camp represents a big opportunity for rookie wide receiver Shi Smith to stake his claim for reps in 2021.

Carolina Panthers training camp is upon us, with the first official practice taking place on Wednesday ahead of what promises to be a grueling few weeks at Wofford College. Simply put, there is a lot riding on this year’s preparation period for the organization as they look to prepare effectively in pursuit of making more of an impression next season.

It seems as if the Panthers training camp always throws up some surprises. Players come to the fore unexpectedly and others who were given no hope of any prominent role surging their way up the depth chart to make the team.

The stifling heat in Spartanburg is going to be a sink or swim scenario for a roster that hasn’t had a full offseason period together before. COVID-19 denied them this chance in 2020, which meant it was surprising Carolina was competitive for the most part without quite doing enough to come through in the clutch.

A strong offseason period of recruitment brought prominent veterans and a wealth of exciting young talent via the draft. Something that could make them one of the league’s surprise packages if everything goes right from the outset.

Opportunity knocks at Panthers training camp for many players. Shi Smith definitely falls into this particular category.

The sixth-round selection has a lot going for him, although the wide receiver room remains pretty crowded despite Curtis Samuel leaving in free agency for the Washington Football Team.

Shi Smith could be a star at Carolina Panthers training camp.

It’s hard not to look at Smith’s skill set and not be encouraged. He is a smooth route-runner who gets open quickly from the slot, which is an area where the Panthers need production in the immediate aftermath of Samuel’s departure.

Having the right mentality should also assist Smith as he looks to make his way in Carolina. The former South Carolina standout is a fiery competitor who sometimes crosses the line in terms of talking his way into trouble on the field, but it’s all part of what could make him a special player at the next level.

Expect Smith to emerge as a camp star. But what the player shows during preseason games is probably more important to the coaching staff as they determine just how involved the rookie will be in Year 1 of his professional career.

Carolina has two top-tier studs on the outside in D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. David Moore and second-round pick Terrace Marshall Jr. will also play a significant role, so it’s going to take a big effort from Smith to force his way into offensive coordinator Joe Brady’s plans.

Expectations are relatively low where Smith is concerned.

This has nothing to do with his ability. But is related more to where he was drafted and the abundance of weapons Carolina has in the passing game.

Must Read. 5 secret weapons at the Carolina Panthers’ disposal in 2021. light

However, a strong camp where Smith catches the eye would change all that in an instant. And he’d be a surprise most teams won’t see coming.