AUBURN, Ala. — Jason Smith no longer has to clutter his mind with all the responsibilities that come with being a quarterback. After one week of cross-training at quarterback and receiver for Auburn, the junior college transfer made the decision to put all of his energy into catching passes.
On Saturday, he took part in his first scrimmage at the spot and left the coaching staff pleased.
"We got the ball in his hands a few times. (He) did some good things," coach Gus Malzahn said in a post-practice press conference Saturday. "It's just going to be a matter of him feeling more and more comfortable at that position and learning the little things that go with it. But he is very athletic. ... He wants to be good and he wants to be coached."
That's not to say he'll never line up behind center; Malzahn said the team will still keep certain packages in place where they can put his ability to good use. And Smith is also in the rotation at punt return. But now, the Mobile, Ala., native is getting the chance to flash his receiving skills.
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In years past, he's shown the capability to do just that. Though he starred as a quarterback during his days at McGill-Toolen High School, he played receiver at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game in 2012. And he excelled. Smith had five receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown, which helped him win the game's most valuable player award.
Despite the limited reps he's taken at the spot thus far, the Tigers' upperclassmen receivers have been impressed with what they've seen.
"You could tell he’s athletic," senior Ricardo Louis said. "He was a quarterback coming in, but we knew he could be more. ... He has good hands, he runs good routes and he’s fast. I think he could be a real good help for us moving forward.”
Marcus Davis, who, like Smith, shifted to receiver once he got to Auburn after playing quarterback in high school, has taken his teammate under his wing.
"Even when he’s working at quarterback I kind of give him tips on how the receivers run their routes," Davis said. "Just him working with the receivers a little bit, it’s easier for him to transition.”
Even on a team full of talented players, Smith hasn't found it hard to stand out.
"That guy is a great athlete. I tell him that all the time. We work together on punt return," Davis said. "Even days after practice we spend time together. I’m just trying to polish him up at receiver because I feel like he has what it takes to help this team."
Redshirt freshman tight end Chris Laye admits he's seen few players like Smith.
"Raw athleticism. He can do things that most other people can't do," Laye said. "But I think as he learns the plays and learns what he's supposed to do, I think he can be a huge asset to the team."
Rhett Lashlee couldn't have agreed more. Whether it's at receiver, punt returner or quarterback — or another role the coaching staff hasn't even thought up yet — the Tigers have to find a way to get Smith on the field.
"You can tell he’s natural. ... At the day, he’s an electrifying player," Auburn's offensive coordinator said. "Depending on where it goes, he’ll have a role."