This is the 23rd in a series of articles counting down the most important players for Florida State in 2012. There are 35 days until FSU football, and that's how many are left on the list. That means no off days. Oh, and these are not in any specific order.
Rodney Smith | 6'6, 219 | Senior | Receiver
Background (Courtesy school bio)
Highly-touted prospect who earned Miami Herald All-Dade honors at receiver...playing in a run-based offense at Archbishop Carroll, 10 of his 35 receptions as a high school senior went for touchdowns...also intercepted four passes from the safety position...had an interception return and two kickoff returns for touchdowns...over final two seasons totaled 65 receptions for 1,330 yards and 17 TDs...a four-star prospect, he ranked among the top 100 players nationally...received more than 30 FBS scholarship offers...born March 11, 1990.
Career To Date
Florida State doesn't have a true candidate for the honor of best receiver in the country. Still, the Seminoles do have an excellent receiving corps.
One of the key members of the receiving corps is Rodney Smith. The senior from Miami has really grown over his career in Tallahassee.
As a freshman in 2009, Smith didn't play much of anything but special teams. He did, however, really improve his game as a receiver. He also maintained good grades. Smith came to Florida State as an extremely raw player, having played in a wing-t offense that either asked him to run deep, or simply slipped him the ball out wide and asked him to beat some less than stellar competition.
We cautioned FSU fans to not expect much initially out of the four-star. At 6'6, he was lanky like a baby giraffe and needed to grow into his body.
That term has multiple meanings, and all were applicable to smith. He needed to grow into his frame, but also learn how to use his frame to gain position and leverage other defenders. Body control is a major part of that, and it's something that Smith has improved on during each season.
As a sophomore in 2010, Smith started eight games. He wasn't a star, but defenses did have to account for the long-strider on deep routes and jump balls. After scoring a touchdown on his hometown Miami Hurricanes, Smith really took off. He caught 31 balls for 448 yards. His two big catches against Clemson were huge, as was a third that was not correctly called and would have sealed the game earlier.
Coming into 2011, more was expected of Smith. And he delivered again, improving on some of the aspects of his game including route running. And he became a more dependable target. Smith caught 36 balls for 561 yards. He tailed off at the end of the year, however, and I'm not quite sure why. Still, Smith was one of the better receivers in the country. Smith's practice habits have not always been stellar, but I don't think that is what caused the dropoff.
The lone senior in the group is Rodney Smith, the 6'6" presence on the outside. Smith has steadily improved each year he's been in the program, including a 25 percent increase in per-game production last season. Smith is naturally a difficult matchup for most corners because of his height, but it has been his improvement in other areas, like adding strength and learning the nuances of the position which have propelled his progression as a player. Jimbo Fisher has already praised Rodney Smith multiple times this spring, and Smith needs to consistently work hard and focus to take his game to the next level.
I don't have much to add to that. There's little reason to think Smith won't continue to improve his game and be an excellent option for FSU in 2012. Receivers with a 15 yards/catch number don't grow on trees. And with 1009 yards on 67 catches in his two seasons as a starter, that's exactly what Smith is.
I'll also note that he's listed at 219 pounds, which FSU fans hope is good weight. If it is, and Smith continues to become acclimated with his body as he increases in physical maturity, he could have a big year and make a move up draft boards.