UConn receiver Michael Smith worked hard this spring to earn back the trust of his coaches, after being forced to sit out 2011 because he was academically ineligible.
It's no secret the Huskies need some receivers to step up this season, with Kashif Moore and Isiah Moore both gone. A big-play receiver would be even better. The last time Smith played, in 2010, he led the team with 46 receptions for 615 yards, and a 13.4 yard average. I had a chance to catch up with Smith recently to find out how the season away helped him, and what he expects to do in 2012.
How has the spring gone for you?
Michael Smith: It has gone pretty well. I think I got better every day as the spring went on. It feels good to be back out there with my teammates. I'm blessed to be back here in this position.
What was it like to sit out?
MS: It was really frustrating because at times I felt I could do things to help the team win. I know I did it to myself. I was really upset, but once we got into Big East play, I said to myself, ‘I have to move on to get ready for my chance to come back next year.’
Your top two receivers are gone from last year. What can you bring to this group?
MS: I can bring everything. I'm not just one dimensional. I'm fast enough to go deep, and I play good in between the hashes. I can break tackles, get yards after catch. I’m very versatile. With the confidence I have right now, I think I have a chance to have a pretty good year this year.
Why is your confidence so high?
MS: My confidence is soaring. Just having time off last year playing on the scout team, going against guys like Dwayne Gratz and Blidi Wreh-Wilson, my technique is a lot better, my hands are a lot better. This year I’m looking to have maybe even double what I did the last time I played. I just want to do what I do best for the team to win.
So was the last year a blessing in disguise?
MS: It's sad it had to happen that way, but I can say it was a blessing in disguise. I’m bigger, stronger, more explosive.
MS: I’m about same weight, but I have more muscle mass. I was a little chunky on side, and I’m about 205 now, but I have a lot more muscle. I’m more toned.
Who kept your spirits up last season?
MS: Honestly, it was coach (Shane) Fogarty, now coaching at Fordham. He was the scout team coach. He kept my head in there. The defensive coaches, coaches (Don) Brown and (Darrell) Perkins, they were good, too. I gave them the best I could every day.
The biggest question on the offense, of course, is the quarterback position. How has it been working with five different guys?
MS: I'm cool with all of them. When they're in a game, you have to adjust to the type of balls that they throw. We have a lot of work to do in the timing of the passing game. We can all make plays, but it's all about the timing, where the ball should be thrown, when the quarterback should be throwing out of his drop.
How much does the receiving group want to prove itself?
MS: This receiving group really wants to take advantage of the opportunities given to them. There’s always somebody looking to break out.