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STEVE DeSHAZO: Former Indian standout Smith making position switch with Terrapins
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By Steve DeShazo
COLLEGE PARK, Md.--He already knew he'd have more duties than he did as a redshirt freshman last season. When you're the oldest of seven children, responsibility isn't optional.
But when Torrey Smith received a phone call from his University of Maryland coaches last month, he was surprised at their request.
They wanted him to move from flanker, where he started the last six games in 2008, to split end. That's merely the position that Darrius Heyward-Bey manned for the previous three years before he became the seventh overall pick in April's NFL draft.
Smith admitted the request didn't sit well with him at first. It had taken him two years to adjust to playing receiver after starring at quarterback for Stafford High School. And he had spent spring practice at flanker. Now that he was finally comfortable and productive, he was being asked to change again?
But Smith never has been a me-first guy. And when his coaches explained that his old and new positions were remarkably similar--and that the move would give him more chances to make big plays--he gladly agreed.
"It's a lot of the same routes," Smith said Monday at the Terrapins' annual media day. "And [split end] is the [quarterback's] first read. It gives me the opportunity to potentially touch the ball a little more."
The young Terrapins hope to get the ball into Smith's hands as often as possible this fall. After all, he set a school record last season by averaging 21.3 yards per touch (on receptions, runs and kickoff returns).
And his 1,089 kickoff return yards were the highest in Atlantic Coast Conference history--including a 99-yard touchdown in a Humanitarian Bowl victory over Nevada. The Terps hope that Smith can assume a role like the ones Florida's Percy Harvin or Missouri's Jeremy Maclin handled last year.
"He's a great weapon," special teams coach Charles Bankins said. "We've talked about Torrey leading the country in all-purpose yardage. I told him if he does his part as a receiver, I'll take care of the rest."