'Confidence' didn't drop in Josh Smith last season even if some passes did

ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL
Tennessee wide receiver Josh Smith looks for a pass while running drills at spring practice at Haslam Field on Tuesday.

Photo by Adam Lau

ADAM LAU/NEWS SENTINEL Tennessee wide receiver Josh Smith looks for a pass while running drills at spring practice at Haslam Field on Tuesday.

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Every question fielded Tuesday by Tennessee sophomore receiver Josh Smith somehow came back to dropped passes.

This wasn’t a hostile horde of reporters grilling Smith about his mistakes in 2013. Smith was simply adamant about making a public mea culpa.

“I’m a perfectionist, and dropping passes is just the hardest thing for me,” Smith said.

Smith’s interpretation of his freshman season may be overly harsh. Few expected the Christian Academy of Knoxville graduate to play a large role in 2013, but he won a co-starting role with a great camp. Smith played 11 games and 343 offensive snaps — fourth most among the receivers — while catching 12 passes for 182 yards.

Tennessee coach Butch Jones, who defended Smith last year, was far more charitable in his assessment of his debut season.

“He made some great plays, too,” said Jones, when drops were mentioned. “I have tremendous confidence in Josh Smith.”

Smith said that confidence is appreciated and kept him going through low points a year ago.

“They could have easily pushed me aside because of all the drops I had,” Smith said of the Vols’ coaching staff.

Smith also knows that with more options at their disposal in 2014, he’s in greater danger of being “pushed aside” if he doesn’t take a step forward.

Jones said the addition of junior college transfer Von Pearson and freshman Josh Malone has dramatically elevated the talent of the receiving corps.

But the absence of Alton “Pig” Howard, who is away from the team on a personal leave of absence, and the move of Devrin Young to running back, could open up new opportunities for Smith.

Howard was the starting slot receiver, a position for which Smith seems a more natural fit.

“When I came here, that’s where I thought I was going to play,” Smith said.

Smith has never doubted his own ability. Jones has repeatedly said that Smith has the best hands on the team, and Smith concurs.

“That’s why I got recruited,” he said. “I’m a white receiver. I run good routes and I can catch.”

Smith left speed off his list of attributes. At CAK, he said, coaches would tell him on deep routes, “Just run faster, Josh.”

That won’t work in the SEC.

“In college football, they’re faster than you,” he said. “Going from playing Loudon to playing Alabama, it’s a big difference.”

Smith played through a knee injury in 2013 that was only cleaned up by surgery in December. Even with a bum knee, he usually didn’t have problems getting open.

“That’s a positive,” he said.

Now comes the catching part. And for that, he wanted to be clear he was making no excuses.

“I don’t want that (excuse) out there,” he said. “My hands are not my knees.”

Evan Woodbery covers Tennessee football. Follow him at www.Twitter.com/TennesseeBeat.

© 2014 govolsxtra.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 20

atnvol#283282 writes:

Good Luck....this year can/will be totally different for you Josh. My son went thru a stretch much like you of several games with drops....and he had great hands also...sometimes, things just happen.

snowpeapod#263184 writes:

The kid has a great attitude. That will carry him a long way in becoming the kind player he wants to be. As Larry the cable guy says, git her done!!!

oldster writes:

There are great players. There are great gamers. There are great practice players. Smith appears to the a great practice player.

oldster writes:

in response to oldster:

There are great players. There are great gamers. There are great practice players. Smith appears to the a great practice player.

Sorry, I did not mean to leave in the "the."

gc_scvol writes:

in response to oldster:

Sorry, I did not mean to leave in the "the."

We're sorry you posted, period.

atnvol#283282 writes:

in response to oldster:

There are great players. There are great gamers. There are great practice players. Smith appears to the a great practice player.

Smith was a tremendous player in High School and I expect he will leave his mark as a player and a student before he graduates from this university.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to atnvol#283282:

Smith was a tremendous player in High School and I expect he will leave his mark as a player and a student before he graduates from this university.

+1

magicbyswh#221420 writes:

I have to agree with a post above. Smith does great in practice, then when the lights come on he is nowhere to be found. He is not a D-1 player. With the addition of the new receivers his chances are getting slimmer and slimmer. Smith is more suited for a D-3 team. Carson Newman will take him when he decides to transfer. They used to get alot of ex Tennessee players. Another Dooley miss that Jones inherited.

gc_scvol writes:

in response to magicbyswh#221420:

I have to agree with a post above. Smith does great in practice, then when the lights come on he is nowhere to be found. He is not a D-1 player. With the addition of the new receivers his chances are getting slimmer and slimmer. Smith is more suited for a D-3 team. Carson Newman will take him when he decides to transfer. They used to get alot of ex Tennessee players. Another Dooley miss that Jones inherited.

June 5. 2007. Familiar date and familar tactics to get a few more hits. Give it up.

bUTch__please writes:

Last year the passing aspect of our offense was..how you say..dysfunctional. Different QB's from injury so different read tendencies. Different timing out of breaks. Different velocities and spin and touch. Not to mention inconsistent play from the same QB. Receiving corps injuries and inexperience made for route confusion. Lack of depth in the receiving corps also meant tired legs and pushed decision making from young receivers getting overused. Not the best of conditions.

Two things I know about this upcoming year.
1. If those dropped passes hurt Josh's feelings half as much as they hurt mine..he'll fix it.
2. If he doesn't...this years depth will.

RoadTrip writes:

in response to bUTch__please:

Last year the passing aspect of our offense was..how you say..dysfunctional. Different QB's from injury so different read tendencies. Different timing out of breaks. Different velocities and spin and touch. Not to mention inconsistent play from the same QB. Receiving corps injuries and inexperience made for route confusion. Lack of depth in the receiving corps also meant tired legs and pushed decision making from young receivers getting overused. Not the best of conditions.

Two things I know about this upcoming year.
1. If those dropped passes hurt Josh's feelings half as much as they hurt mine..he'll fix it.
2. If he doesn't...this years depth will.

Good, accurate post.

Amazing how quick some are to declare "bust" for a local VFL that was a true freshman thrust into a starting role when he did not even expect to see the field when he reported to camp. The same kid that made catch after clutch catch in HS. If he is a bust, why did the coaching staff play him so much all season? They had numerous other guys that had been on the roster for years they could have used.

Josh is a very good athlete, has very good speed, and runs very good routes. He was not ready mentally for the role and lost his focus at times, The drops can affect much more accomplished receivers - such as a very experienced former first round draft pick on the Titans, Kenny Britt, who dropped more than he caught last season.

But now Josh knows what he has to do and how to do it. If he doesn't get it done the depth will keep him on the sidelines.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to RoadTrip:

Good, accurate post.

Amazing how quick some are to declare "bust" for a local VFL that was a true freshman thrust into a starting role when he did not even expect to see the field when he reported to camp. The same kid that made catch after clutch catch in HS. If he is a bust, why did the coaching staff play him so much all season? They had numerous other guys that had been on the roster for years they could have used.

Josh is a very good athlete, has very good speed, and runs very good routes. He was not ready mentally for the role and lost his focus at times, The drops can affect much more accomplished receivers - such as a very experienced former first round draft pick on the Titans, Kenny Britt, who dropped more than he caught last season.

But now Josh knows what he has to do and how to do it. If he doesn't get it done the depth will keep him on the sidelines.

Good post; agree with all. Another thing working against Josh, IHMO, was the physicality of the college game; size and strength weren't among his particular assets. He did drop a few relatively open passes, but most of his drops came when he didn't hold on after getting hit. He should be stronger and more confident going into this season, and while I echo the concerns of some regarding his game reps with all the new and returning receivers on the squad, I think he will find his niche and help the squad considerably in one role or another. Even though he was a star at CAK--IIRC, the leading receiver in TN HS history!--he doesn't seem to be the type to sulk even if he isn't ever the team's main receiving target.

johnlg00 writes:

PS: One other adjustment Josh had to make was catching somewhat harder-thrown passes than he was used to. His QB at CAK, Charlie High, threw a rather soft, very accurate, catchable ball, more like a Danny Wuerffel than some stereotypical cannon-armed types, not that the Vols necessarily had any of that latter type last year! Or the former, for that matter!

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

Clank, caught 12 dropped 30 including some critical plays late in the game that could have changed the outcome of the Vols season. He only played because there was no depth. I didn't realize his skin color had anything to do with his capability to play for UT which has not been proven!
If Pig comes back we won't have to endure the pain of watching potential first downs and touchdowns hit the ground as he stares at his hands.
Wasted scholarship! Only played because of the local politics and donor money supporting him.
He sure isn't Larry Sievers or Lance Alworth!
Clank!

Snapshot writes:

in response to WaitUntilNextYear:

Clank, caught 12 dropped 30 including some critical plays late in the game that could have changed the outcome of the Vols season. He only played because there was no depth. I didn't realize his skin color had anything to do with his capability to play for UT which has not been proven!
If Pig comes back we won't have to endure the pain of watching potential first downs and touchdowns hit the ground as he stares at his hands.
Wasted scholarship! Only played because of the local politics and donor money supporting him.
He sure isn't Larry Sievers or Lance Alworth!
Clank!

I'm sure you were much better in your illustrious college career, weren't you? Give the kid a break you moron, you don't what kind of player he will turn out to be. I'll take Butch Jones opinion as to wether or not he can play over yours.

underthehill writes:

I don't like to be critical of articles ..but I can't see the value in this conversation..

johnlg00 writes:

in response to underthehill:

I don't like to be critical of articles ..but I can't see the value in this conversation..

There was nothing wrong with the article, it was the tangent some posters took it on. It might have helped the tone of the conversation if the writer had put the term "white receiver" in quotes, which would have conveyed the intended meaning more clearly. The stereotype is that "white receivers" are only slow, route-running, possession receivers rather than play-makers. And as for the idea that Josh was a "wasted" scholarship, any of us could name any number of highly-touted, "can't-miss" prospects who flamed out without a trace. You would think most true fans would give a freshman a chance to grow and develop before writing him off, especially when you know that he is and has been giving it his all to improve.

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

in response to Snapshot:

I'm sure you were much better in your illustrious college career, weren't you? Give the kid a break you moron, you don't what kind of player he will turn out to be. I'll take Butch Jones opinion as to wether or not he can play over yours.

Actually yes, at least my nickname wasn't clank!

WaitUntilNextYear writes:

In reality the only time he should see the field is in the post game driving the John Deere lawnmower!
Reminds of watching Pearl's idiot son tripping over himself and hitting the bottom of the backboard on a layup while Maymon was watching on the bench.
Sorry, they should both be in the nickel seats!

Snapshot writes:

in response to WaitUntilNextYear:

Actually yes, at least my nickname wasn't clank!

Yeah right, in your dreams.

You were certainly no Richmond Flowers.

Your name was doofus!!

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