Re­ceiver wants to be un­leashed

Los Angeles Times - - College Football - Chris Fos­ter

UCLA’s Josh Smith has been wait­ing for his chance to break loose, but the tal­ented wide re­ceiver and kick re­turner has been bot­tled up — by Bru­ins coaches.

“They’re wait­ing for me to do some­thing, and I feel like I’m wait­ing for the op­por­tu­nity to do some­thing,” said Smith, a trans­fer from Colorado.

Smith’s lack of op­por­tu­nity has left one of UCLA’s most ex­plo­sive play­ers an un­known head­ing into Satur­day’s game at Texas. The Austin Amer­i­can-States­man pub­lished a blog post this week head­lined: “Dar­rell Scott’s un­cle to face Horns.”

Scott and his un­cle played at Colorado, where Smith av­er­aged 19 yards per catch as a fresh­man and was third in the Big 12 Con­fer­ence with 1,987 all-pur­pose yards as a sopho­more.

But Smith has one re­cep­tion for eight yards this sea­son and was rarely seen in the game against Hous­ton on Satur­day. He has re­turned kick­offs but has yet to field a punt.

Coach Rick Neuheisel, when asked about Smith’s di­min­ished role, painted with broad strokes, say­ing, “We have a num­ber of tal­ented guys that we would like to get in­volved with the of­fense. We’ll con­tinue to ex­plore ways to cre­ate more op­tions for guys to have the ball in their arms.”

Pressed on what is hold­ing Smith back, Neuheisel pointed to in­juries, as Smith missed most of spring prac­tice with a knee in­jury and sat out a week with a groin prob­lem dur­ing sum­mer train­ing camp.

Smith showed health wasn’t an is­sue against Kansas State with a 43-yard run on a re­verse.

But Neuheisel said: “We want to make sure Josh is up to speed men­tally with know­ing all the as­sign­ments. Un­til we’re dead-set sure that he knows what he’s do­ing, it’s hard to have the con­fi­dence to put him in there.”

Smith ad­mit­ted that, “I’m a lit­tle bit be­hind,” but the mental part of re­turn­ing punts is pretty sim­ple: catch and run in the di­rec­tion of the block­ing.

The Bru­ins have gone with Tay­lor Em­breeon punt re­turns.

Em­bree is the safe, sure­handed choice, Neuheisel has said, but does not pos­sess break­away speed.

“On a daily ba­sis, I’m try­ing to de­velop that trust, let them know that I’m ready to go when­ever they are ready to un­leash me,” Smith said.

Quick hits

Tackle Micah Kia, limited be­cause of an an­kle in­jury, prac­ticed lit­tle dur­ing the week. Mike Har­ris is ex­pected to start. . . . Run­ning back Der­rick Cole­man (con­cus­sion) went through work­outs for a sec­ond con­sec­u­tive day, but Johnathan

Franklin is ex­pected to start. . . . UCLA de­fen­sive line coach Todd Howard, who played (1983-86) and coached (1991-93) at Texas A&M, has won six of seven games against Texas. “I’ve been telling my guys all week that I’ve won six in a row,” Howard said. . . . Texas has not lost a non­con­fer­ence reg­u­lar-sea­son game since be­ing beaten by No. 1-ranked Ohio State in 2006. chris.fos­ter@latimes.com twit­ter.com/cfos­ter­la­times

John Rieger

HELD BACK: Re­ceiver and kick re­turner Josh Smith has had a limited role for the Bru­ins.

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