Colorado WR/KR Josh Smith - picture by Phil Coale
All I can really say is "wow." I am in disbelief. Thanks to our loyal reader mam2jd, most of you have read about the decision of WR Josh Smith and TE Ryan Wallace to leave the football program. Wallace, the 6'5" 235 pound redshirt freshman, decided to go his separate way because he was homesick and wanted to be closer to his family in Kentucky. Wallace was currently fifth on the depth chart but three seniors were in front of him so he was in line to have a good chance at seeing time in two years as a sophomore. He never played a down for the Buffs so it is hard to judge the impact he would have had. It's definitely a loss of a player with great size but we never learned what we had on the field.
As for Josh Smith, the junior all purpose player, we saw glimpses and imagined greatness. That ability to achieve new heights on the offensive side of the ball will not be realized with the Buffs. His own self comparisons to former Missouri WR Jeremy Maclin will be left incomplete. Smith has decided to leave Boulder and pursue a music degree in California or Arizona that the University of Colorado does not offer. He was honorable mention All Big 12 last year for his special teams work, something that was indeed special. No matter what you thought of Smith here are the facts: last year he was 9th in the nation in all purpose yards with 1,987. Yes, the 2008 sophomore fumbled, he dropped a few touchdowns, was injured and made some poor judgment plays but losing a guy who contributed 165 yards a game is never a good thing. Couple that with now only two scholarship receivers on the roster in Scotty McKnight and Markques Simas, the situation is now bordering ridiculous. I hope Terdema Ussery and Jarrod Darden, both true freshman who might be at prom or graduating from high school right now, are ready to play.
Smith was most definitely a polarizing figure for the Buffs. I am not going to lie, I loved watching Smith play and figured he might be the type that had a revelation one day & became a complete player. There will always be that question whether Smith really wanted or had the desire to become that complete player. Either way, he won't be competing on Folsom Field. I am shocked. Flat out, he was a playmaker, you can't deny that and the Buffs haven't shown they have a lot of those. He was not a great wide receiver yet but he had the potential to be. If the Buffs had four or five receivers above Smith on the depth chart, this may not be as big of a deal as most are making it but because of the current depth at wideout, it is.
Moving on now and assessing the situation objectively, a few things come to mind right away:
1) I find it hard to believe that pursuing a music career is the only reason for a transfer of this magnitude. If your an outsider looking in at the Colorado Buffaloes, you once again start to wonder what is considered the "normal attrition" that goes on within a program or if their is a deeper issue? Perception effects recruiting, donor gifts, season ticket buyers, etc.
2) This was my first thought when I heard of the news and what guys like Tim Griffin of ESPN will ponder is in regards to the future of RB Darrell Scott and even if he does stay at Colorado, how will this impact his football career at Colorado? A big reason Scott came to Colorado was his uncle Josh Smith and although Kyle Ringo said in his column that this shouldn't have an impact on Scott's status, he is a 19 year old young man who lost his best friend/family member in school. It might not be a big deal now but what about when school starts? Either way, this isn't good for what needs to be our best player in '09. I wouldn't worry about this one too much yet as it might be the first overreaction on this story but a year from now, what if the Buffs don't turn it around to a satisfactory level? What will be the first question most will ask?
You just have to hope their isn't more to the story on this one.
3) Special teams, obviously, takes an immediate hit. Smith had 1,276 yards on kick returns, second in the nation last season. The Buffs already have major questions in every other facet of special teams play, something that probably cost them or severely impacted the results of a game or two last year. The Buffs won't get to 10, 9, 8 or even 7 wins if this part of team doesn't improve.
4) What do the Buffs do now about wide receiver? Probably nothing can be done this summer from an outside perspective. Smith was a starting receiver on the most current depth chart. Kendrick Celestine is supposedly ineligible from his return to the program so he looks to be out of the question. Right now, the Buffs have one receiver who has ever caught a pass in a division one football game. ONE. I don't think bringing in another player right now is going to do anything other than add depth with an athlete that might not be "scholarship worthy." There is pretty much nothing that the staff can do other than hope JUCO transfer Andre Simmons (still not completely qualified for admission), Darden, Ussery, Simas, Jason Espinoza and even Ryan Maxwell are ready to be superior receivers. It was something Colorado was going to have to deal with anyway but this news magnifies it. Can anything else possibly happen to the receiver position?
5) How does all of this effect the team? This was supposed to be the no excuses campaign. The way the players and coaches were talking, this was the "all or nothing" year. The year the turn around takes place. Gone is LB Lynn Katoa, WR Chance Blackmon, Wallace and Smith. Players like S Ray Polk, LB Jon Major, QB Tyler Hansen, DL Curtis Cunningham, OL Blake Behrens, OG Max Tuioti-Mariner are a few who were out or injured this spring. You have two coaches leave the program in Jeff Grimes and Mark Helfrich. Most are happy with the replacements but still, its a change, its a rocking of the boat, something we keep seeing with this program. Last year it was all about injuries and off-the-field issues. I wonder what the moral will be like in the fall time?
I find myself asking what's next? I didn't see this one coming. I wish Josh Smith and Ryan Wallace the best of luck in their future endeavors, wherever they may be. I enjoyed watching Smith with the football in his hands.
Just shocked...I guess I shouldn't be anymore especially with this hidden statement in Ringo's column:
The athletic department has planned several announcements concerning the football program for Monday. The updates will include the status of Hawkins' efforts to fill his coaching staff in the wake of Mark Helfrich's departure to Oregon and player personnel changes, including Smith and Wallace.
That including word might not mean this is over...stay tuned.