With the helmet off, it’s the hair you notice about Kevin Smith.
There is a manila yellow streak up the left side, where a part would normally live. The yellow intrusion moves around Smith’s head depending on the day and his whim.
“I like to be different,” Smith said. “It was something different.”
Smith hopes his sophomore season will be that. His main job in 2010 was to return kickoffs next to Jesse Callier. The wide receiver from Compton, CA, also returned a handful of punts. He made just one catch for 18 yards.
His frame, 6 feet, 197 pounds, is already sturdy. He played basketball in high school, helping his ability to go up for passes. Despite the wheels, ups and strength, wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty thinks Smith’s best attribute is the one most necessary for a skilled receiver.
“Great hands,” Dougherty said.
With those main factors in check, Smith is spending his spring practices polishing nuance.
Tuesday and Thursday Smith erred the same way. Coming in short motion, he was too close to the tight end. This stifles his chance to get off the line at maximum speed.
“He’s not going to be perfect all the time,” Dougherty said. “(But) he’s got to cut down on those mental errors. Once he cuts that out of his game, he’s going to be dynamite.”
Smith’s spot in the wide receiver pecking order is one that can be influenced this spring. He has played well enough, despite the minor mental breakdowns, that a depth chart released today would likely have him as the third starting wide receiver, along with Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar.
His time on the field will be challenged again in the fall when high school All-American Kasen Williams arrives. For now, Smith can separate himself from the second tier of receivers that includes James Johnson, DiAndre Campbell and Cody Bruns.
The advantage Smith will have this fall was a disadvantage for him last fall. The playbook that appeared so daunting and different than high school is something he now understands better.
“They I know I know the offense and they are trying to get trust in me,” Smith said of the coaches. “(They) throw me in there in different situations to see if I know and do it perfect every time.”
Smith has done right often enough that head coach Steve Sarkisian is enamored with what might be coming.
“He’s still new and raw to the position, all of those nuances he’s talking about, every day he picks up one,” Sarkisian said. “It’s very encouraging.”
Though the hairstyle remains a question mark. Dougherty was pleading for something down the middle or perhaps a lightning bolt up the side to emulate the San Diego Chargers (Dougherty last worked for the University of San Diego).
Right now, it’s just that odd streak. But if Smith can clean up the small things, next season will be about more than his hairstyle.