Smith has experimented with a number of different schemes to try to find success and seemed to get a margin with cornerback Demond Williams returned the opening kickoff 98-yards in MSU's win over Indiana. The flip side was MSU punter Brandon Fields had one kick blocked and one partially blocked.
Smith revealed that he is trying some new formations with the punt coverage unit.
``Well, what we're doing in that situation is we changed up some things trying to get that P.P. (personal protector) out of there to go to an extra gunner down the field," said Smith. ``In doing that, you leave a gap open. So what we try to do is zone block that to one side and leave the back side open. " Smith said while the philosophy is sound, the execution of it has to be better. ``We just let a guy beat us up the middle. On the last one, we just got a little bit soft and manhandled on it. They were in 'safe'(return mode) and I think we assumed they were in 'safe', but we have to go out and work on that."
Smith wants to keep the extra cover man in to guard against long returns. ``We'd like to (keep the extra gunner in) do that just to get an extra down the field to help cover. We still should be able to protect it, we still should be fine. Its just a matter of execution."
On the return teams, the Spartans have at times fielded balls farther into their territory than they Smith would like, resulting in the team playing on a longer field than necessary.
``What we try to do is [have him] align with his feet on the 10-yard line and tell the guy if it's over your head let the ball go. Now sometimes when its up there and he's wandering around he'll catch it inside the ten (yard line). Hopefully he'd never do that inside the five (yard line)."
``Yeah what we tell him is align his heels on the ten (yard line), if you have to go back to catch it, don't go. But even with that I'd rather have him catch it on the seven (yard line) than let them down it (inside the 10)."
The Spartans appeared to have settled on freshman Matt Haughey as their kicker, although he has not been tested in a pressure situation. Smith said that the team takes a perverse delight in torturing the youngster prior to having him try to make a field goal.
``What we do we call him up at the end of practice every day and we put the team around him and try to harass him as much as possible and then we make him kick all over the field and the harassment is brutual." Smith gleefully admitted.
He said he was proud of Williams effort that resulted in him receiving the Big Ten's Special Teams Player of the Week award. ``He got Big Ten Special Teams player of the week, which was good for him, said Smith of his hard working junior college transfer.
``I kind of took him aside yesterday and put my arm around him and encouraged him that that focus has to continue to improve on the defensive portion of it. He really did some good things for us on special teams. That kickoff return, as you know, that was huge. And we can get at more of that."
One area that doesn't look like it needs much improvement is the Spartans kickoff unit. Todd Boleski has solidified the unit by routinely pinning opposing return units with kicks that often boom into and through the end zone.