With Owen Spencer, Darrell Davis, T.J. Graham and Jarvis Williams, the Pack would seem to enter the 2009 season with a solid rotation of wide receivers. However, behind the scenes some believe sophomore wideout Jay Smith could be the wideout poised for a breakout year. At a rock solid 6-2, 197 pounds, Smith reportedly had a very productive off season and that has helped raise the bar for what will be expected of him in 2009.
Smith arrived at NC State as the crown jewel of the Wolfpack’s 2007 recruiting class. He landed an offer from the Pack in September of his junior year in high school and ultimately committed to the State over the likes of Notre Dame, Miami, Tennessee and Virginia.
After redshirting his first year, Smith got his feet wet in 2008 while fighting to earn reps alongside State’s deep group of receivers. He finished the season with a modest seven catches for 78 yards but the bigger story may have been that Smith appeared in all 13 games for the Pack. Along the way he added valuable experience and that helped propel him into the spring more determined than ever to become a bigger contributor on offense.
“The off season has been going good,” Smith recently told Pack Pride. “I’ve been working hard, just trying to do all the things they ask me to do to be a better football player for NC State.
“Right now I can’t say exactly where I’ll fit in but whatever they ask me to do, whether it’s special teams, offense- I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to get on the field.”
Every player faces a learning curve during the transition from high school to college and that’s been a focal point according to Smith. While he’s continued to hone his physical skills, equally important has been the time dedicated to simply learning the plays, running the correct routes and knowing the in’s and out’s of offensive coordinator Dana Bible’s schemes. Smith says he hopes the hard work will lead to bigger plays in 2009.
“I have really worked hard on just knowing my plays so during the game I don’t have to think about it,” said Smith. “I’ve also worked on being able to get in and out of my breaks and just make big plays when I can.
“I just want to push myself to the point where I do my best. That’s all I can ask. If I do my best then everything else will fall into place. Whenever I get my chance to make a big play then I want to be the guy that makes the big play.”
NC State took a step in the right direction as a team last December when they became bowl eligible for the first time since 2005. An impressive four game winning streak to close out 2008 landed State in a bowl game versus Rutgers. While the Pack eventually lost the contest in the second half, Smith said State will need to learn from it and use the experience to get ready for 2009.
“Obviously there was some letdown from the bowl game but you can’t really dwell on that. You’ve just got to use it and move forward as a team and do the best we can.”