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Clarifying With Corbin Smiter

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When the news that Owls senior receiver Corbin Smiter would not attempt to play again this season and that he would seek a medical redshirt so that he could participate as a fifth-year senior in 2010 reached my iPhone last Friday afternoon, I immediately thought back to a candid offseason conversation I had with an anonymous member of the football program.

While outlining the Owls' potential depth at the skill positions, my conversation partner lamented the fact that former Rice coach Todd Graham opted not to redshirt Toren Dixon and Smiter when they were true freshmen in 2006. Dixon and Smiter combined to catch 14 balls for 136 yards and no touchdowns in '06, numbers that could have been made up elsewhere. Had Dixon and Smiter watched and learned as freshmen, they would be fourth-year juniors this season and, better still, would be back in the fold in 2010 when Rice expects to have Nick Fanuzzi or Taylor Cook at quarterback, and Sam McGuffie and Charles Ross in the backfield.

We both drifted off into a happy place envisioning that collection of talent before moving on. Without Dixon, Smiter and Taylor Wardlow, the Owls were positioned to lack experience at receiver next year, that is before Smiter and the Rice coaching staff decided to end Smiter's fruitless attempt to return and contribute following his mid-summer sports hernia surgery.

"That was definitely pretty difficult," Smiter said of the decision to seek a medical redshirt and cut short his senior season. "It was something I had to talk to my family about, I had to pray about, and get Coach (David) Bailiff's opinion on. It was difficult, but I feel that I made the best decision for this ballclub as well as myself.

"I could struggle through this season and push through pain or potentially re-injure myself, or I could come back when I'm really healthy and really contribute more than I can now. That was definitely something that was on my mind."

Smiter could have made a similar decision in 2007 when he participated in three games in October before breaking his foot. He returned for the Owls' Conference USA game at Marshall and broke his foot again in pregame warm-ups. Smiter was sidelined for the remainder of his sophomore season and didn't regain his footing (no pun intended) until the midpoint of the 2008 campaign, one in which he produced 30 receptions for 487 yards and three touchdowns.

Following hernia surgery in early July, Smiter was cleared for full participation midway through fall camp. However, despite his best efforts, he struggled to regain form, and after catching one pass for nine yards against Vanderbilt two weekends ago, decided to stop fighting in vain.

"There was definitely progress being made," Smiter said. "The problem was that it would continually re-aggravate itself. I would rest, it would heal, progress would be made, then during practice a lot of times it would bother me. In games it definitely started bothering me a lot. It just was not healing. It was obvious that I was not a hundred percent healthy."

Smiter practiced Monday, and will do so in a limited capacity for the rest of this season. The injury does not require additional surgery, only rest, and the expectation is that Smiter will be without restriction for spring drills. Perhaps then he will finally get an opportunity to cut loose.

"It's real hard to watch your teammates play," Smiter said. "Your brothers are out there playing and you have to sit out on the side just watching, just dying to get in there. All I can do is focus on getting healthy and helping this team next year."

Here's an update on the eight players signed in 2006 who have played or intended to play receiver:

Pierre Beasley: 11 receptions, 214 yards, 1 TD.

Toren Dixon: 126 receptions, 1,328 yards, 11 TDs.

Evan Fentriss: transferred to North Texas following the 2006 season and is out of football.

Kasey Nobles: transferred to Clemson after redshirting in 2006.

Andrew Novak: forced to retire following foot injuries and serves as a team videographer.

Patrick Randolph: 33 receptions, 336 yards, 2 TDs.

Corbin Smiter: 44 receptions, 659 yards, 3 TDs.

Taylor Wardlow: 48 receptions, 550 yards, 6 TDs.

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1 Comment

Let's hope Corbin's decision allows him to make a big impact on the Owls in 2010. He definitely deserves it after the injury hardship he has suffered.

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