Matt Smith made it obvious from the first game last season that he was going to be counted on as playmaker.
The Desert Vista cornerback made a decision to leave his area in the final seconds against Tucson in the 2010 season opener to sack Badgers' quarterback Shakir Smith inside the Desert Vista 10-yard line to preserve a 20-15 win.
It didn't end there.
Smith went on to be named an All-Fiesta Region first-team defensive back despite not having an interception. He had a handful of balls thrown his way - he had eight passes defensed - but never got that elusive interception that can be a momentum changer.
He plans on getting his hands on the ball a lot more this year and not just in the return game and on defense.
"I talked to Coach (Hinds) about being more involved on offense," Smith said. "I thought I should have got the ball more last year but we had some good guys in front of me."
Smith showed some big-play ability, scoring twice, in the scrimmage against Chaparral's second-team defense.
"We plan on using him on both sides of the ball, but you don't want to take away from his role on defense," Hinds said. "It is hard keeping that kind of speed and talent on the sidelines."
Last year, the team pretty much stuck with Mike Ingrassia as the main threat in the team's patented fly sweep and it led to a huge year by the senior.
Heading into Friday's opener at home against Maryvale, the role as of now falls on three players. Junior Nick Farina, junior Kaleb Germinaro and Smith are expected to get some touches.
Smith has put on some size - 1 inch in height and 15 pounds in weight based on the team's roster to reach 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds - and is one of the fastest runners on the team as a track sprinter.
It could be the same combination that led to Ingrassia's breakout year.
"Mike had a great year and he stepped up as a senior," Smith said. "I want to do the same thing. When we needed something to happen, it seemed like he was always the one to come through."
While Smith is hoping for a great year for the team and himself, football isn't what he is focused on for the future.
He'd love to get a scholarship, but he isn't worried about it being at a Division I powerhouse.
Smith explained his summer camp schedule, which included a trip to the East Coast where he visited places like Cornell, Princeton and other Ivy League programs.
"I want to play but only if it is the right fit academically," Smith said. "Football is great, but I am only going to play for so long."
Hinds said much of the team has a good academic history and it gives the team an added dimension.
"With kids like that you really only have to show or tell them something once and they get a grasp of it," he said. "It makes things so much easier. We know we can throw something at them and it will stick the first time."
Smith is going through this year without his brother, Aaron, who graduated and is at the honors college at Arizona State. While it is a different feeling, it signifies that it is time for the younger Smith to step into a new role.
"It is weird, but it is good, too," Matt said. "It means I am a senior and it is my time to be a leader and help us become the team we expect to be. We made it back last year and we want to continue that."
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