HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Tommy Shuler's misfortune has become Devon Smith's benefit.
Shuler, the Marshall football team's record-setting slot receiver and a Biletnikoff Award watch list member, still hasn't gone through a full practice, recovering from offseason foot surgery. That's allowed Smith, a Penn State transfer who redshirted last season, to play with the first-string offense in his place.
Smith feels that experience won't just help him. It'll help quarterback Rakeem Cato and the rest of the Thundering Herd offense.
"It's something I need," Smith said. "I just need to learn the offense more. So me getting all those reps is making me learn the offense, making Cato more comfortable with me, and when I need to get in for Shu, it'll still be clicking."
A Maryland state high school champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, the 5-foot-7, 155-pound Smith always has been known for his speed. As he becomes more familiar with the offense, he said that should help him become even faster.
"It'll make me more comfortable with my routes and my hands," he said. "I'll know where to be at the right time and at the right place."
The senior also has been working at both kick return and punt return. He was a standout punt returner for the Nittany Lions, finishing second in the Big Ten as a sophomore with a 12.9-yard return average. He'd love to work at both spots during games this year.
"I'll try to do anything to help my team win," he said. "That's probably what I'm most excited about. I'm just trying to bring that spark back up."
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REDSHIRT SOPHOMORE receiver Davonte Allen is starting to heal and starting to play a bigger role in Marshall's offense this preseason. He had a couple of nice catches Thursday afternoon, including a stretching touchdown grab near the back of the end zone over Darryl Roberts.
"He hasn't played ball in a while," Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said. "He was out all spring and missed the first week of camp. For him to get back, he's a tremendous athlete with tremendous skills. It won't take long for him."