RALEIGH — Rashard Smith is finally comfortable.
After four years that could be described as indecisive and agonizing, the redshirt junior is at ease with his role as a Wolfpack receiver after spending the past three years primarily as a cornerback.
Its been different, Smith said about switching positions this season. After playing on the defensive side of the ball for so many years, going to the offensive side of the ball was weird at first.
Weird, perhaps, but not unique. Smith, whom teammates call Ace, was a multi-sport, standout quarterback/cornerback at Dublin High School in Georgia, where he was named Class AA Player of the Year in football and basketball.
He took basketball recruiting trips to LSU and Tennessee but pursued football because Bruce Pearl was fired from Tennessee and he believed he had a better chance at being drafted, so he signed with N.C. State.
Smith said after years of turmoil including injuries and switching positions multiple times, he is happy with his decision.
A lot of people still ask me to this day why I didnt go play D-I basketball, Smith said. But Im really comfortable with my decision. When I first made the decision I kind of questioned myself but now I dont regret that decision at all because I love being here and love playing with the Pack.
Smith started as a true freshman at the boundary corner position but suffered a season-ending knee injury midway through that forced him to redshirt the next year, too.
He returned last season with the expectation he would play receiver, but defensive injuries forced him to split time. He became the first Wolfpack player to play offense and defense in the same game since 2005.
But this has been a breakout year. He went to camp as a receiver and has emerged as a deep-play threat for quarterback Mike Glennon. Smith has just 14 receptions, but his 17.1 yards per catch leads the team. He has also pulled in three receiving touchdowns, two longer than 30 yards, and returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown. His four touchdowns are second on the team, behind Bryan Underwoods 10.
Im just happy to have this opportunity, Smith said. Im just determined to do whatever I can to help this team win. And for now, thats as a receiver and I couldnt be happier.
His deep-play ability hasnt gone unnoticed by coach Tom OBrien.
(Smith) has settled in on the offensive side of the ball, OBrien said. He has gotten better. He made a couple of big catches (against North Carolina) and dropped one ball that unfortunately ended up being an interception, but hes ready to get back on the field and make something happen.
Smith passed the credit to his quarterback.
Im just blessed to say that I play with a guy like Mike (Glennon), Smith said. He has an amazing arm and when he goes through his progressions, I have no doubt that hell make the right read. Whether he finds me down field or not, I know hes typically going to be right.