Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher didn't mince his words last week at SEC media days when talking about the weapons on the roster. Of all the talent A&M possess, there might not be one better than Ainias Smith.
"A guy I call your Swiss Army knife in Ainias Smith, one of the best football players I've ever been around," Fisher told reporters in Hoover, Ala.
Smith enters his third season in College Station, now being used in more ways than one. Last season, Fisher elected to keep him in the backfield as a secondary runner to Isaiah Spiller.
This season, he'll be playing his more natural slot receiver role — among other things.
"Ainias Smith is a slot receiver, is outstanding, as good as anybody in America the way you can use him and things you can do," Fisher said.
When looking back, what can't Smith do? A wide receiver by trade, the junior from Sugarland only continues to make plays in the open field as both a runner and a pass-catcher.
Should that be his role again in 2021? If so, one could say he's the next of these gadget players making their mark at the collegiate level.
Last fall, Kadarius Toney lit up the SEC with his adaptability to make plays in space. Primarily used as Florida's top receiver, that wasn't the only spot where the now New York Giant thrived.
In 12 games, Toney recorded 19 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown. In all four years with the Gators, he recorded at least 16 carries per season. In fact, Florida listed him as a "utility" player rather than a wide receiver.
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That's Smith's persona perhaps as well?
Even as the No. 2 back, Smith on most of his success comes in the passing game. His 43 catches were the most on the team last fall, as were his 564 receiving yards.
What's interesting is he still recorded valuable numbers as a runner. Smith averaged 6.0 yards per carry, plus four scores on the ground. His 857 total yards were second-most on the roster behind Spiller, who surpassed the 1,000-yard marker for the first time in his career.
Names like Curtis Samuel, Rondale Moore and Toney are slowly taking over the NFL. They aren't just wide receivers, but rather weapons who can do it all. In baseball, there are certain players who are listed as "utility" thanks to their ability to play on around the diamond and in the outfield.
Why is Smith any different?
Fisher has said in the past there could be drives where Smith, Spiller, and second-year runner Devon Achane are on the field. Just because two line up in the backfield doesn't mean "Agent Zero" won't be the player receiving the handoff on a jet sweep.
Players of Smith's skills are valuable in the world of football. Some wide receivers can win in the vertical threat. Other running backs have straight-line track speed that allows them to be home run options down the sideline.
Smith has both traits and should be ready to display them off as the SEC's top threat in 2021.
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