Jeff Kolpack, Published April 09 2014
Smith is gone from Bison football team, but his productive spot remains
But the role Smith played will keep on giving as long as the Bison continue to run the West Coast offense.
He created the footprint that NDSU will try to replicate for years.
“He laid the foundation,” said freshman receiver Tyler Wrice. “He showed that you can be a smaller receiver, but you have to play hard and put down effort on every single play.”
The foundation is commonly called “slot receiver” and Smith worked that to perfection at times over the course of his last three years at NDSU. Wrice is hoping to be that guy.
Smith was 5-foot-7 and 175 pounds his senior year. Wrice is 5-7, 170 pounds.
“Just look at the way he used his quickness to his advantage,” Wrice said. “We’re both smaller players, so he showed that you have to think ahead and go into a game with a plan to figure out what the defensive player is going to do before he makes his moves.”
Wrice, from Papillion, Neb., redshirted last fall, although he was getting consideration to play right away. He said he figures he was 60 to 70 percent there, but ultimately not picking up the playbook fast enough probably cost him, he said.
“Maturity plays a big role when it comes to that,” he said.
Wrice is competing with 5-foot--8 sophomore Eric Perkins for the slot receiver job, with Perkins perhaps having an advantage because of experience. Perkins played in all 15 games, catching eight passes.
“He’s quick, and he’s a sure-handed receiver,” Wrice said.
There were still 10 practices left in spring football when Bison receivers coach Autif Austin was asked about Wrice, so he said there was still plenty of evaluation time left.
Austin also said Wrice has some of the same qualities of Smith, who is helping as a student coach this spring.
“I think you have to find spots for him, for a quick guy like him that’s hard to cover,” Austin said. “You create matchups – a linebacker doesn’t want to cover a little quick guy who can run right past you and get into the flat. We’re a power running football team, but we want to make sure we can take our shots down field. So when you have a little guy who is fast, it’s an advantage for us.”
At Papillion LaVista High School, Wrice had over 1,000 all-purpose yards in both his junior and senior seasons. He said he had scholarship offers from Illinois State, Montana, Northern Iowa and NDSU.
His father, Trampis Wrice, played cornerback at the University of Nebraska and his cousin, Antwon Blake, is a cornerback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Tyler Wrice is hoping to add the slot receiver distinction to the football family tree.
“To be more like a playmaker and to make explosive plays,” he said, “because obviously I’m not going to be on the field all the time because there are bigger receivers. We can come in on certain packages and make a big play happen.”
It’s the blueprint that Ryan Smith worked to perfection.
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia