Emmanuel Smith remains a key focal point to Oakland’s offense in 2013.
However, the Vanderbilt commitment’s role on defense may be even more vital.
Thus, Smith will give up some of his responsibilities on offense for the Patriots this season.
He no longer will be the Patriots’ starting quarterback. Fellow senior Rhett Stacey has that role, allowing Smith to be used more at receiver. However, Smith will remain as the Patriots’ signal caller in their wildcat package.
“He’s been very unselfish,” Oakland coach Thomas McDaniel said. “He doesn’t have to play every snap now, and that’s helped him on defense. It’s making him a better football player and allowing him to grow in other positions.
“He’s gotten to work at his skill set at wide receiver, and he’s bought into it. I think he can flourish there. And he will be a much better defensive player this year because he will be fresher.”
Smith was a do-it-all on offense for the Patriots in 2012.
He led Oakland in passing, completing 48 of 68 passes for 628 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception. He also rushed for a team-high in rushing with 777 yards and scored four touchdowns.
Oh, and he caught six passes for 107 yards.
Smith is also the Patriots’ leading tackler returning (77) with two forced fumbles and an interception. And he accomplished all of that in nine games after missing two because of an injury.
But Smith may miss the start of the season after sustaining a separated shoulder in a preseason scrimmage. He’s not expected to lose much time because of the injury.
Smith said his reduced role has helped him focus on defense this season.
“It’s helped me catch my breath,” Smith said. “It’s helped me make less mistakes on defense because I’m not tired out there.”
That, though, doesn’t mean he won’t have a role with the ball in his hand. McDaniel said Smith is still a focal point on offense despite several other skill players back from last season.
Smith, though is more concerned with the defense. He is a three-year starter at free safety and it is his likely position in college.
“Our defense should be really good,” Smith said. “We have to stay hungry. We have to come out every game and show them what we can do.”