With good friend Jeremy Johnson already entrenched at the quarterback position and redshirt freshman Sean White one year into the system, Smith knew it was going to be an uphill battle to try to earn a spot in the quarterback rotation despite totaling over 2,000 yards of offense and 28 touchdowns last season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Because of that it took him just a week into spring practice to make the decision to move to wide receiver, something he doesn’t regret at all.
“I always had that in the back of my head if things got a little hectic at the quarterback spot,” Smith said. “It’s two ways to it, really, at quarterback and receiver, you have to worry about a lot of stuff at quarterback. I didn’t see nothing wrong with moving to receiver at all. I think I will help the team at that way.”
Helping the team is the main goal for Smith, something offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee believes will be the case once the speedster settles in more as a full-time wide receiver.
“He's transitioning well,” Lashlee said. “With the exception of his high school all-star game, he's never really played a lot of receiver. He's always been a quarterback. But he's doing well. He's 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? 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.”
Jason Smith is happy to finally be at Auburn
That all-star game experience at wide receiver has been something Smith has kept in the back of his mind since winning MVP honors in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic after catching six passes for 134 yards in December of 2012. Determined to give quarterback his best shot after not getting into Auburn, Smith first had to sit out his first season at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College because they already had too many out-of-state players on the current roster.
Not only did that mean Smith couldn’t play, but he wasn’t even allowed to practice with the team. That meant working on his own throwing the football with players who were hurt or redshirting for the Bulldogs, and even throwing with his dad and brothers as much as possible.
Probably the biggest part of that first year however was that it allowed Smith to hit the books hard. Determined to get to Auburn in time for spring practice in 2015, Smith said he worked hard on his academics and in the process learned a whole lot about himself.
“That I can’t put nothing past me,” he said of what he learned. “If I put my mind to it, I can do all things. Grades were definitely one of the things that I wanted to accomplish.”
Before he would get to show the world what he could do at quarterback Smith first had to learn an even tougher lesson after being arrested just over one year ago for attempting to elude police and possession of marijuana while back home in Mobile. Admitting it was a case of being around the wrong guys at the wrong time, Smith said he’s just grateful for having a second chance to show what kind of person and player he is.
“Every time I think about it, I just sit back and think about all I’ve been through,” Smith said. “I’m getting that second-chance opportunity that a lot of guys don’t get and I’ve got to capitalize on it.
“You have childhood friends and sometimes that’s not the best people to be around,” he added. “ I learned from that mistake and I’m going to capitalize on it and show people that was a mistake and that definitely won’t happen again.”
Now making an early impact with the Tigers this spring at wide receiver and also catching punts, Smith is excited about having the opportunity to line up alongside former MGCCC teammate Duke Williams in the fall. Learning from Williams and also guys like Marcus Davis, who was also a quarterback at one time, Smith said he’s just ready to get on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time and see what happens.
Also ready to see what can happen with Smith on the field is Dameyune Craig. Auburn’s WR Coach, Craig said he’s seen plenty of positives so far from the former quarterback and he’s looking forward to seeing what the future holds.
"Jason has done a good job,” Craig said. “Jason has some athletic ability. He is still learning. Once he can put it all together he can be a big-time football player."