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September 13, 2006
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As a senior at Plympton (Mass.) Silver Lake Regional High School, Jeff Smith had 553 yards on kickoff returns.
It's not that shocking a total. Then again, Smith was busy playing quarterback and safety as well.
He won't be playing either of those positions at Boston College. But you can bet he will continue to return kicks.
The true freshman, who did not have a return in the season opener against Central Michigan, exploded for 213 kickoff return yards - including a 96-yard touchdown - as the Eagles beat then-No. 18 Clemson 34-33 on Saturday. Because of his efforts, Smith is the Rivals.com National Freshman of the Week.
Smith averaged 42.6 yards on five returns. When you consider that his first return of the game and his career went for 4 yards, it means he made the most of his other chances.
"My first one didn't go so well," Smith told Rivals.com. "The second time I got one, I just said I can't let it end like that first one."
He didn't. Smith's second return was a 45-yarder that set up BC's first touchdown drive. His next return was a 39-yarder that led to an Eagles' field goal.
Not having learned its lesson, Clemson kicked Smith's way to open the second half. This time he didn't just set up points for the Eagles, he scored them.
"The guys set up a great wall and I found a hole and just hit it," Smith said.
So when does the feeling hit you that a kickoff return is going to wind up in the opponent's end zone?
"Not until you get there," Smith said. "The whole time I thought there was someone right on my back and I was hoping no one would get me. I felt like someone was breathing down my neck."
Smith narrowly missed being a four-star prospect by Rivals.com. He was the No. 4 prospect in New England and No. 38 as an athlete.
Smith was one of several true freshmen regarded highly by Rivals.com who arrived on the national scene on Saturday.
In the same game, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller showed off the form that made him a five-star prospect. Spiller had a dazzling 81-yard catch and run for a touchdown.
In Gainesville, former five-star wide receiver Percy Harvin - Rivals.com's No. 1 recruit in the country - had four receptions for 99 yards. One of his catches was a 58-yard TD reception in Florida's 42-0 rout of UCF. Fellow five-star true frosh Tim Tebow, Chris Leak's backup, led the Gators in rushing with 69 yards.
Across the state, Florida State five-star tight end Brandon Warren showed flashes of things to come with three receptions for 56 yards. Teammate Marcus Ball, another true freshman and a four-star linebacker prospect, led the Seminoles with 10 tackles and two pass breakups. Without their contributions, FSU might not have squeaked past Troy 24-17.
Other freshman considered this week besides the galaxy of stars just mentioned were Wisconsin redshirt freshman running back P.J. Hill (101 yards and three touchdowns vs. Western Illinois) and Alabama true freshman walk-on kicker Leigh Tiffin (hit a pair of field goals against Vanderbilt, including a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter that provided the winning 13-10 margin).
COORDINATOR OF THE WEEK
Just one day after longtime Dawgs defensive coordinator Erk Russell had passed away, Georgia posted its first shutout in three years by blanking South Carolina 18-0. The performance earned Georgia's Willie Martinez this week's honor as Rivals.com's National Coordinator of the Week.
"I thought it was very important to start fast, not let them get into a rhythm," Martinez told Rivals.com. "We had some young guys in there, some new starters, and it was important to start fast. We didn't want to let them get a drive early and get that crowd into it and crazy.
"We were able to do that. The first drive was three and out."
It was a proper tribute for Russell, who built the Junkyard Dawgs defense for Vince Dooley from 1964-1980 before reviving football as the head coach at I-AA Georgia Southern.
Georgia's players wore a black "ERK" decal on their helmets, then went out and irked Spurrier by shutting down the Gamecocks.
"We talked a tremendous amount about it (the passing of Russell)," Martinez said. "Coach (Mark) Richt addressed the team about it.
"We've always had a lot of respect for Coach Russell and he has spoken to the team since we've been here several times. We've tried to bring back the tradition he started, when it doesn't matter what the name is on the back of that jersey, you just play that crazy style, wild, play faster and harder than your opponent. ? We wanted to honor him and play a style that would make him proud."
Mission accomplished. It was the first time a Spurrier team had been shut out in 193 games, since his tenure at Duke. The Blue Devils lost to Rutgers 7-0 on Oct. 3, 1987. It was Spurrier's first season in Durham, N.C.
"As you get closer to the end of the game, you start to talk about it (the shutout) and press a little bit more," Martinez said. "For any defensive coach or player the ultimate thing is not to allow the other team to score. We got it and we're ecstatic that we won, regardless of who it is."
South Carolina got inside the Georgia 5 twice in the game, but the Dawgs held both times. The Gamecocks were limited to 35 yards rushing on 22 carries.