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Freshman receiver Smith spending his summer studying IU’s playbook

The former 4-star recruit wants to get onto the field early. He knows the 1st step in getting there is learning his assignments ahead of fall camp next month.

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Rutgers v Indiana
FILE: Whop Philyor #1 of the Indiana Hoosiers warms up before the start of the game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Memorial Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Bloomington, Indiana.
Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images

Jaquez Smith takes his homework seriously.

Every day, the incoming freshman receiver sets aside two hours to flip through the offensive playbook he was given upon his arrival in Bloomington last month. He takes notes on alignments, quizzes himself on routes and makes an effort to learn not only his own potential responsibilities within Indiana’s offense, but those belonging to his teammates, too.

“If you don’t know the playbook,” Smith told reporters Thursday, “you can’t play.”

Playing, of course, is Smith’s immediate objective. The Georgia native, a former four-star recruit ranked by 247 Sports as the No. 10 overall prospect to sign with IU during the rankings era, wants to be a contributor during his first season with the program. In a crowded receivers room, Smith knows that the first step toward that goal is spending his summer memorizing terminology and planting route trees in his brain.

“The main thing is focusing on everybody’s position,” Smith said. “Not just my position, but everybody else’s and making sure I know where to line up, how to line up, and just being ready. It’s not difficult. But at the same time, (I) have to learn it a lot faster because I came in in the summertime so I (haven’t) had as much time as these guys have had.”

Landing Smith last summer felt like a significant win for the Hoosiers, who convinced the 6-foot-1, 200-pound playmaker to commit to a college career in Bloomington over a long list of name brand offers. In the 247 Sports Composite rankings, Smith was considered the No. 41 receiver in the nation.

He has a reputation for having good hands and creating separation, and analyst Tom Lemming wrote in his 2019 Summer Underclassmen report that Smith has demonstrated a knack for catching the ball at the high point and eluding would-be tacklers. After he committed last August, Smith told IndyStar’s Zach Osterman that IU receiver coach Grant Heard told him he resembles a smaller version of Seattle Seahawks receiver DK Metcalf, a former Heard pupil at Ole Miss. Smith appreciated the compliment.

“DK is a workhorse,” Smith said. “I feel like I’m a workhorse, as well.”

This summer, in addition to spending hours each day studying the playbook, Smith has aimed to make 150 catches a day to stay sharp. In the weight room, he’s prioritizing lower body strength while also doing workouts geared toward increasing flexibility.

“The weight room is the best thing in this facility,” Smith said.

Down the hall from the weight room in the bowels of IU’s North End Zone complex, Smith is also getting acquainted with his hew position mates in the receiver room. There’s been a lot of fraternizing lately, as IU added two transfers in D.J. Matthews (Florida State) and Camron Buckley (Texas A&M), along with two other intriguing freshmen in Jordyn Williams and Malachi Holt-Bennett.

Everybody wants to play, and Smith is trying to take the first few steps toward making that hope a reality this fall.

“We’re all talented at the end of the day,” Smith said. “But we gotta know when to lock in and when to stay in our playbook. Our main goal is to get to the national championship, but we’ve got to lock in. What they’re helping me with is just staying in this playbook. It’s an every day thing.”