Smith Happy With Improvements

Auburn wide receiver Rodgeriqus Smith says that he's becoming more comfortable with every passing game.

Auburn, Ala.--When sophomore receiver Rodgeriqus Smith made a position move during the preseason for the Auburn Tigers it was thought the move was made to try to get the attention of fellow receiver Prechae Rodriguez.

Through seven games it has become increasingly apparent that the move wasn't made to get a receiver to improve, it was to put an improved receiver on the field.

This season Smith has 15 catches for 264 yards and the only two touchdown receptions for Auburn's wide receivers. His average of 19.8 yards per reception is the second-highest on the team behind fullback Carl Stewart and he's the only player with double-digit receptions other than senior Courtney Taylor.

He says that because of the move it took him a little while to get going, but now he's finally feeling comfortable on the field and it's showing in his play.

"When I made the move to X I had a little setback," Smith says. "It wasn't a major setback, but I feel like I'm getting more comfortable every game. I was comfortable when I was at the Z, but I think I'm getting better and better every game. I just want to keep producing for my team."

The production for Smith has been huge for the Tigers as they have struggled at times this season to find a third receiver behind Smith and Taylor. Because of that teams have focused on the duo making it difficult at times in the passing game. Last week with quarterback Brandon Cox healthier than he had been in weeks the Tigers found a rhythm throwing the football, something that has Smith excited heading into this week's game against Tulane.

"We have a lot of confidence," Smith says. "We got down in the red zone a lot so the next thing is just to finish it off with touchdowns. That was good for us this week to move the ball like that. When we get to the red zone we've got to put the ball in the end zone. That's what we hope to do this week is finish it off when we get the chance."

Smith has taken advantage of his opportunity to become a solid starter. Last season when he got a chance to play he showed he could be productive.

Following his struggles in the preseason that prompted the move of Smith, Rodriguez has come on in recent weeks and has eight catches this season for 76 yards. Those aren't huge numbers but with Robert Dunn and Lee Guess contributing the group has come along this season albeit slowly.

Against Florida the group had its coming out party in the biggest of games for the Tigers. Even though Cox completed only attempted 27 passes and completed 18, nine went to different receivers with Taylor, Smith and Rodriguez combining for 11 receptions and 96 yards. Smith says that the group is coming along and he feels like they're on the verge of something big.

"We have a lot of confidence," Smith says. "Florida was by far our best game of the year. Things are going really good for us as a wide receiver group. We're looking for better production farther down into the season."

The game was also a coming out party of sorts for Cox as well. A veteran that had one of the best seasons in Auburn history in 2005, Cox has battled through ankle and knee injuries this season and has still put up solid numbers. With 1,199 yards and five touchdowns while completing 62.7 percent of his passes, the junior finally appears to be rounding into shape and Smith says that's exciting for the passing game.

"Brandon has been struggling this year with leg injuries, but he's come back strong," Smith says. "He had an excellent game against Florida and we really needed that out of him. He's coming back good."

Not only have Auburn's receivers improved over the course of the season catching the ball but also in the blocking department. Saturday they capped off that improvement by one of the better wide receiver blocking games in the last few years as both Smith and Taylor routinely kept their guys down the field and away from the play. Smith says that's something that Greg Knox stresses to them every day and it pays off on Saturdays.

"We've worked on blocking a lot in practice," Smith says. "Coach Knox likes to work on a lot of blocking drills and he always tells us to be physical and come off and punch the corner in the mouth before he does it to us. We just want to go out there and set the tone from the beginning of the game. Blocking is a major part of our offense. We run the ball a lot. Coach Knox always stresses blocking to us and we want to get the job done on the perimeter."

This Saturday Smith will again take his customary starting role for the Tigers and he'll do so with the tag of walk-on once again. While he's shown since he arrived on the Plains that he was talented enough to be a scholarship player, Smith says he uses his situation to his advantage every week and he'll continue to do so.

"I have to go in with a chip on my shoulder," Smith says. "I have to play like I'm a scholarship player if I want to get the respect I should get. I play with a chip on my shoulder every week to go out there and produce. I know my ability, I know what I can do. Someone might doubt me because I'm a walk-on but sooner or later they'll figure out I'm pretty good."


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