ASU Football's 13 Most Important Players in 2013: #6 - WR Rick SmithPosted: Updated:
"I just want the best, not just for me but for the team to help us win games. I just want to contribute as much as I can."
Arizona State is hoping that sophomore wide receiver Rick Smith can follow through on just that.
The team's struggles at the wide receiver spot last season have been widely analyzed, discussed, and lamented over the last few months. To address this glaring need, head coach Todd Graham signed five receivers in the 2013 recruiting class, including the No. 12 player on this countdown, Jaelen Strong.
While those incoming players will bring intriguing skills to the field, the team's best bet for finding a playmaker at the position will come from within.
Smith came to ASU last summer after a standout career at Long Beach Poly in California, and caught five passes, including a touchdown, in the Sun Devils' season opener against NAU. However, it would be another five weeks until his next catch, and for the year, he totaled just 11 receptions.
Looking back on his debut season, the 5-foot-9, 165 pounder wishes he played bigger.
"I should have been more physical, because I have a smaller body frame, and just knowing the concepts and the coverages a lot better."
With a year of experience and work in the team's weight and conditioning program under his belt, the speedy Smith is now well equipped to take the next step and emerge as a No. 1 receiver.
After seeing a lot of time at the slot in 2012, Smith played primarily on the outside during spring practice, and excelled. His burst off the line and route running all showed great improvement from his freshman campaign, and his hands were consistently impressive.
ASU returns some talented players at the wide receiver spot, including the sure-handed Kevin Ozier and the big-bodied Alonzo Agwuenu, yet none have the gamebreaking potential of Smith. To help enhance his prospects, Smith worked extensively with quarterback Taylor Kelly over the offseason to build the necessary rapport of the game's top combos.
"He has a lot of chemistry, because he has worked a lot, said Smith. "To this day, we have worked all offseason. We'll work out at night, catching balls and such. I feel he is a lot more comfortable with us on the perimeter. Hopefully, we'll see how that contributes in the fall."
If Smith can emerge as a legitimate threat on the outside, it will add a much needed element to a Sun Devil offense that can make the leap from good to great. With defenses respecting the downfield threat of Smith, more room will be had for record-setting tight end Chris Coyle underneath, and for the dynamic running back duo of Marion Grice and D.J. Foster on the ground.
With his ability to be a force on all three levels of the passing game, Smith should be in store for a breakout year. Yet, his goals for the year are much smaller in scale.
"Catch every ball that is thrown to me and help us win."