DeAndre Smelter may still be knocking off the rust, but after making a catch worthy of being on Sports Center’s Top 10, it’s pretty hard to tell. Smelter, who has been a pitcher on the Tech baseball team for the last three seasons, is making a transition back to football after not playing since his senior year of high school. After being one of the nation’s highest rated pitching prospects out of high school, even being drafted in the fourteenth round by the Minnesota Twins, Smelter has had an injury-plagued career at Tech. With shoulder problems consistently limiting his ability on the baseball field, Smelter decided to give football another chance.
“I really didn’t want to go through college having any regrets. Saying I should have done this, I should have done that. So I had a second chance to do something I really love and I took advantage of it,” Smelter said.
Not only was Smelter a highly ranked baseball recruit out of high school, he was a big time football recruit as well. According to scout.com, Smelter had football offers from Tech, UGA, USC, LSU and Auburn. Smelter played multiple positions in high school: quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker. He was selected to the GISA All-State team in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and currently holds Tattnall Square’s career records for both receiving yards and interceptions. Smelter will continue his baseball career at Tech with one year of eligibility remaining, and counting this season, has two years of eligibility to play football.
After the departure of receiver Jeff Greene, who transferred to Ohio State prior to this season and with sophomore receiver Anthony Autry suffering a season ending injury, Smelter has the opportunity to come in and immediately compete for playing time at receiver. It is assumed Darren Waller will be one of the starters, but the other spot should be wide open between Smelter, redshirt freshman Micheal Summers and junior Corey Dennis. Due to baseball, Smelter was unable to compete in spring practice for football last season, but has been doing his best in fall camp to earn playing time.
“I’ve definitely made a lot of progress. Ever since I started in the summer I feel like everyday I’ve been progressing and just been working on something to get better,” Smelter said.
Coach Johnson, who isn’t necessarily known for giving praise to players, seems to agree with Smelter’s early assessment.
“He’s going to help us. He’s going to play. He’s making plays. He’s had a good camp,” Johnson said.
While making the transition back to football, the physical, on field component may not be too difficult for Smelter, who may have more natural talent than any other receiver on the team. This being his first year on the team, Smelter is obviously behind more experienced players like junior receiver Darren Waller when it comes to knowledge of Tech’s offense, but he’s putting in the work to make sure he knows what to do when the time comes. Although it may not be the deepest position for Tech this season, receiver has been a position where Tech has produced some superstars recently. Calvin Johnson is one that everyone knows, but Demaryius Thomas and Stephen Hill were both big time players in Paul Johnson’s spread option attack. If Smelter is able to understand the offense soon enough, he may be the deep threat that Tech’s offense has been missing since the departure of Hill. Luckily for Smelter, playing in Tech’s run based option offense makes the task of learning the offense a little simpler.
“There are a lot of schemes. It’s not as difficult as you would think, but you still have to do your homework, still have to learn which blocks you have, your calls and your routes. So it takes a lot of studying,” Smelter said.
Barring injury, it seems clear that when Tech kicks off the season against Elon on Aug. 31, Smelter will play in an actual football game for the first time in three years, and likely will be ready to go.
“It will definitely be exciting. I can’t wait. Anytime I can make a play for my team, I want to go out and do it and just be excited about it,” Smelter said.
Having redshirt sophomore quarterback Vad Lee under center this year, Tech may be looking to open up the offense and pass a little more than in the past. If Smelter is able to make some plays for the team, he won’t be the only one getting a little excited.