Nov. 18, 2003
One pass, one reception and one punt return . . . Jonathan Smith accounted for three touchdowns in Georgia Tech’s win over North Carolina.
That’s three touchdowns more than there are stoplights in Smith’s hometown of Argyle, Ga.
Actually, Smith’s sleepy South Georgia hamlet does feature one light–a caution light–and opposing defenses would be wise to take caution when lining up against Argyle’s favorite citizen.
Standing just 5-10 and 185 pounds, Smith has quietly developed into perhaps the most versatile and productive weapon in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Not only is Smith on pace for one of the top receiving seasons in Georgia Tech history with 57 catches for 925 yards, he also leads the league in punt returns with a 10.4-yard average. Throw in his 52 yards rushing, and he averages 124.8 all-purpose yards per game. And that doesn’t even include his 26-yard touchdown pass against North Carolina.
“Coming up in high school, I played all three sports – baseball, basketball and football,” says Smith, who was an outstanding option quarterback at Clinch County High School. “You have to have different skills to play each sport.
“You can put me in the backfield, you can put me in the slot, I can even take the snap sometimes. I just want to do anything I can to help the team.”
To understand the value of Smith to the Yellow Jackets is to realize that with his receiving and rushing, he has accounted for better than 30 percent of Tech’s offensive yardage this season, by far the highest percentage of any receive in the ACC. Many of his receiving yards are tough yards that come after catch.
After three years of playing behind talented receivers such as Kelly Campbell and Kerry Watkins, Smith has made the most of his opportunity to shine this season. He enters Saturday’s game at Virginia (12 noon, FSNS) with career totals of 153 receptions for 2,025 yards to rank fourth in Tech history in both categories, behind Campbell, Watkins and Harvey Middleton, while his 11 touchdown receptions rank ninth. He also ranks 13th in Rambling Wreck history with 2,607 career all-purpose yards.
Never was Smith’s versatility more evident than against the Tar Heels, when he threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Nate Curry, caught a 30-yard touchdown and then returned a punt 73 yards for a score–all in a seven-minute span of the fourth quarter.
While his punt return for a touchdown was Tech’s first in five years, it was his touchdown pass that drew the oohs and aahs.
“After I got the pitch, the defensive end was right there,” described Smith. “They told me if I was covered to just tuck it and run. I made one move to freeze the defender, and then I threw it up there. Nate went and got it for the touchdown.”
“I think that was my favorite play,” said Smith, who worked hard to perfect the play in practice so that the Tech coaches would not be hesitant to call it in the game.
“The first day we worked on that play, I underthrew the ball a little bit just to make sure that it would be complete so the coaches wouldn’t take it out of the gameplan,” he said. Then the next day, we worked on it again, and I threw a pretty good ball.”
Even though the razzle-dazzle is fun at times, Smith just wants the ball in his hands, any way he can get it. That’s when he is most dangerous, with his ability to make people miss and gain yards after the catch.
“I just like little simple plays, like hitches,” said Smith, who is nicknamed “Freddie.”
“Anything quick where I can get the ball in my hands and go. I’d rather catch the ball and then make someone miss. It’s all instinct, I guess.”
PERCENTAGE OF TEAM'S TOTAL OFFENSE BY THE ACC'S TOP RECEIVERSReceivers, School Rush Rec. Total Team Pct.Jonathan Smith, GaT 52 925 977 3234 30.2%Jerricho Cotchery, NCS 32 1096 1128 4864 23.2%Craphonso Thorpe, FSU 6 994 1000 4641 21.5%Derrick Hamilton, Clem 85 886 971 4525 21.5%Jawarski Pollock, UNC 35 699 734 4443 16.5%
TECH CAREER RECEIVING TD 1. Kelly Campbell, 1998-01, 24 2. Kerry Watkins, 1999-02, 22 3. Dez White, 1997-99, 14 Buck Martin, 1950-52, 14 Gary Lee, 1983-86, 14 6. Harvey Middleton, 1994-97, 13 Jimmy Robinson, 1970-72, 13 Greg Lester, 1987-91, 13 9. Jonathan Smith, 2000-, 11