Jason Smith gives Auburn versatile playmaker
AUBURN, Ala. (AP) Jason Smith had no problems cultivating a little wide receiver swagger.
The former junior college quarterback quickly moved to receiver for Auburn this spring, potentially giving the Tigers a versatile threat alongside D'haquille Williams and Ricardo Louis. Smith said he already has adopted the mentality for the position, even though he'd only previously played receiver at a high school all-star game.
''I kind of look at it as (from) a receiver standpoint, you're supposed to have a little confidence,'' he said. ''A lot of them have (it), like Chad Johnson, he's cocky. Confidence and cocky are two different things, but I mean you have to look at it like the guy across from you is trying to stop you from feeding your family, so you're going to do your best to feed your family as far as winning that (practice) rep.
''That's how I look at it every time I step across from a defender.''
The Tigers are hoping that mentality translates into production at receiver and possibly as a Wildcat quarterback and punt returner.
Smith enrolled in January and changed positions a few practices into the spring after working some at both quarterback and receiver early on.
Most Auburn fans will get their first glimpse of the 6-foot-1, 178-pounder in Saturday's spring game.
Smith initially signed with the Tigers in 2013 before ending up at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. He redshirted as a freshman and then passed for 18 touchdowns and rushed for 10 more last season.
Now, Smith has three years of eligibility remaining.
''He still will have a role (at quarterback) at some point down the road, whether it be a real role, an emergency role - who knows at this point?'' Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee said. ''But he's a guy that we're trying to get on the field. He's a great kid who's willing to soak everything up and learn and play hard. He's getting better every day with reps.''
The Tigers must replace two of their top three receivers - potentially high-round NFL draft pick Sammie Coates and Quan Bray - for a season when they're likely to be more pass oriented with the departure of running threat Nick Marshall at quarterback.
Jeremy Johnson and Sean White have been competing to replace Marshall as the starting quarterback. They started out working alongside Smith and now they're throwing passes to a player Johnson calls one of his most athletic teammates.
Smith visited coach Gus Malzahn to request the move after three practices.
''I always had that in the back of my head if things got a little hectic at the quarterback spot,'' he said. ''You have to worry about a lot of stuff at quarterback. I didn't see anything wrong with moving to receiver at all. I think I will help the team that way.''
His only previous experience as a receiver came at the Alabama-Mississippi High School All-Star Classic two years ago, and he was named MVP after catching six passes for 134 yards.
Smith said the main challenge has been getting in better shape for his new position with some extra running.
''I got more comfortable than I thought I would be,'' he said. ''Running routes, that's something that I can pick up kind of easy. Catching the ball is just natural.''
Follow John Zenor on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jzenor