Throughout the spring and summer months and now into ECU’s fall football camp, redshirt freshman Quataye Smyre has made his mark on the team. Though it is uncertain in what capacity he will contribute, the coaching staff has noticed some qualities in Smyre that have set him apart from his competitors.
“There’s a different pop when he’s got the ball than a lot of our other guys,” said offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley.
Smyre, who is listed as an inside receiver at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, has blazing speed and is the definition of a home-run hitter once he gets his hands on the ball. Despite his listing, Smyre may not be limited to just catching passes. In April’s Purple-Gold spring game, he rushed for 25 yards on four carries, in addition to collecting a pair of receptions for 18 yards.
“Quataye can be an inside receiver or even a running back if we need it. He can be a return guy (for) kickoffs, punts,” said head coach Ruffin McNeill. “He’s a guy who can help up in a lot of ways.”
Making an impact in the backfield would be difficult, though. Senior Vintavious Cooper is back after rushing for 1,000-plus yards in 2012. Below Cooper in the depth chart, Chris Hairston, Breon Allen, Cory Hunter and Marquez Grayson are each vying for playing time.
If that wasn’t enough reason, one aspect of Smyre’s game has raised some red flags in the spring.
“Ball security, I’ve got to work on that a little bit more. I put the ball on the ground a few times,” said Smyre. “Catching-the-ball-wise, I’ve dropped a few, but that’s just mental things. If I keep going hard at practice and keep attacking the process, I think I’ll be okay.”
With Justin Jones still not at camp and deep threat Jabril Solomon no longer with the team, Smyre is looking to fill the void as a reliable target. If he solves his recent ball security problems, quarterback Shane Carden sees Smyre playing a similar role as another prominent member of the offense.
“He kind of has the same the style of play as Danny (Webster); both small and very agile,” said Carden. “If we get him in there, we can start getting some good things done, start trusting him a little more because he’s a great weapon we can have for this offense.”
Speaking of similarities, the buzz surrounding Smyre should sound familiar. Last year, Cooper’s big-play ability was noticeable in fall practice, but consistency was the concern. It wasn’t until the fifth game of the year against UTEP that Cooper emerged as the team’s premier back – rushing for 151 yards on 23 carries.
As for Smyre, the challenge is being more reliable, but also, not trying to do too much. Riley has expressed to his players that they can’t score touchdowns every play they touch the ball and they shouldn't try and be "Superman." A message that has been stressed even more to Smyre.
“That’s kind of been the battle with Quataye,” said Riley. “He’s got to continue to become a more consistent player and learn some of those in’s and out’s (offensively). Kind of like Vintavious (Cooper) last year, it’s not as simple as getting guys touches.”
Smyre has put together an impressive resume in the workout department as well. While working with strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors over the summer, Smyre was clocked running a blazing-quick 4.4-second forty-yard dash.
As the numbers reflect, the talent is there. If Smyre can iron out some of his flaws in the final weeks of fall camp, expect to see a lot of No. 4 when the Pirates host Old Dominion on Aug. 31.