Keith Smith came into training camp as Purdue's only real known commodity at wide receiver, but that's not to say the junior is a finished product.
After only one year at the position, in which the 6-foot-2, 223-pounder caught 49 passes for 486 yards, Smith felt like he had plenty of improvements to make. He's slimmed down, and in doing so, gained much-needed speed.
GoldandBlack.com caught up with the Fort Hood, Tex., native during Media Day Wednesday for a quick Q&A.
GoldandBlack.com: After the first handful of days of camp, what are your thoughts?
Smith: "Everything has been going very well. We're bringing a lot of young guys up, taking them under our wings. Practice is going pretty smooth, we have to slow it down a little bit, because like I said we have a lot of young guys. We've got to teach them from scratch."
GoldandBlack.com: What are your thoughts on the six newcomers at wide receiver?
Smith: "I'm just waiting 'til today when we have full pads on. We're going to take a hit and see who can take a hit while they're coming across and trying to catch the ball. Until then, I can't say anything about them because they haven't gotten hit."
GoldandBlack.com: Even without pads, though, can you tell if they've added a dose of speed to the team?
Smith: "Definitely, they're very quick, very fast. Like you said, we need it. We need a downfield threat. We have people who can catch the ball consistently and now we need someone who has that downfield ability."
GoldandBlack.com: Not much is expected of this group, can it surprise?
Smith: "Definitely. Many people will be surprised, by far. We'll come out and run the same stuff we've been running, we're just going to perfect it and bring everybody along. We'll have a lot of surprises this year."
GoldandBlack.com: Much has been made of Royce Adams improvement since the spring. Have you seen the same?
Smith: "By far. We worked so much throughout the summer and his hands have been very consistent. He catches the ball well and once he catches it, he runs. He's a very fast guy. Once he gets the ball in his hands, he's gone and it's nice to see that he worked so hard during the summer to see that he's at this point now."
GoldandBlack.com: It's not surprising that he's worked hard at it, and that hard work is paying off.
Smith: "Oh it definitely has. It's helped us out because the young guys see him working so hard, see all of us upperclassmen working hard and they fall right into it and work as hard as we do."
GoldandBlack.com: A year ago, you were fairly new to the positon, and now you're a leader here. Has that been comfortable for you?
Smith: "They all look at me as a leader, so it's been fairly easy actually. I've been around for quite some time now and everybody has always looked at me as a leader, so it's come pretty natural. When I say something, they know I said it for a reason."
GoldandBlack.com: It's in your personality right? Even when you were a freshman quarterback, you had a little bit of that swagger and confidence about you.
Smith: "I've always been like that, always through high school, everyone always looked at me as a leader and it just followed me through here to Purdue. Now everyone has just followed in, looks at me and sees me working hard and leading by example."
GoldandBlack.com: It seems you've put in a lot of work this off-season too, trying to slim down and speed up.
Smith: "Everyday you do something. What me and Keyon (Brown) did was work out six days a week and gave ourselves Sunday off. It didn't have to be anything grueling, as long as we did something six days a week and that's what we did all summer long. So I'd always try to come in and watch tape or work on my releases, my sprints, something. I put a lot of work in this off-season."
GoldandBlack.com: Was gaining some speed the main priority?
Smith: "That's what I worked on a lot, my explosion, and I lost 20 pounds, trimmed down. When I had my shoulder injury I couldn't condition right, so I gained bad weight. I trimmed down, lost a lot of fat, and got that half step back. Now it's time to show that on the field, show everybody how it is on Saturday."
GoldandBlack.com: And the injury was early last season.
Smith: "I hurt my shoulder in the Oregon game, dislocated it, so I couldn't run or condition during practice, I'd just play Saturdays, so I gained a lot of bad weight. I got all the way up to 243. Now I'm down to 223 right now and feeling great.
"It was a lot of weight to carry."
GoldandBlack.com: At the time, the shoulder injury was kept pretty quiet, neither the media nor fans knew anything about it, right?
Smith: "We kept it quiet and I had surgery 36 hours after the IU game on shoulder. It was severe but I pushed through it during the season because I wanted to help my team as much as I could."
GoldandBlack.com: So with a healthy shoulder, and being 20 pounds lighter, how do you feel?
Smith: "I feel great. My verticle has skyrocketed, my 40-time went down, everything went down on my times. It felt great."
GoldandBlack.com: What is your 40 now?
Smith: "It went from a high 4.5, to a high 4.4. I ran a 4.49. It's a huge difference."
GoldandBlack.com: So you might be able to pick up some yards after catch this season?
Smith: "Definitely. That's what I've been working for, to be able to catch it across the middle, plant and get up field to get an extra five, six yards. That's the biggest point right now, to get my explosion step and be more elusive than a year ago."
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