Square One is not where any college football player wants to find himself in the spring between his first and second years, particularly if he was fortunate enough to earn playing time as a true freshman.

It's the reality Colorado defensive back Terrel Smith confronted earlier this month when spring practice began under a new coaching staff.

Smith and Georgia transfer Makiri Pugh are the only returning members of the secondary who had no familiarity with new defensive coordinator and secondary coach Greg Brown.

Every other member of the secondary had been recruited or coached by Brown, who was the secondary coach in Boulder from 2006 through 2009 before leaving for Arizona for one year where he served as co-defensive coordinator.

Texas Tech running back Eric Stephens is tackled by University of Colorado freshman Terrel Smith during the football game on Saturday, Oct. 23, at Folsom
Texas Tech running back Eric Stephens is tackled by University of Colorado freshman Terrel Smith during the football game on Saturday, Oct. 23, at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo. Texas Tech defeated CU 27-24. Jeremy Papasso/ Camera ( JEREMY PAPASSO )

Smith was a late addition to the 2010 recruiting class after Brown had left for Arizona.

He didn't have any major college scholarship offers, but the old CU staff actually noticed him while watching film of fellow 2010 recruit, running back Tony Jones. Both players came to CU from New Jersey.

"Right now, we're just getting to know each other," Smith said of his relationship with his new position coach."He doesn`t know me. He never recruited me. He knows all the other guys. So we`re starting our relationship. It`s going good though. I like coach Brown."

Smith spent the first six weeks of his true freshman season last fall believing he would redshirt but knowing there was a possibility he might play.


Defensive backs were hit with a rash of injuries in 2010 with one landing on the injury report every week in the first month of the season.

It actually started in fall camp when safety Vince Ewing suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Parker Orms became the second ACL victim in the season opener against Colorado State. Travis Sandersfeld suffered a lower-leg fracture against Cal and Paul Vigo broke his leg against Hawaii.

When safety Anthony Perkins suffered a torn ACL at Missouri on Oct. 9, coaches turned to Smith, an undersized 5-foot-8, 190-pounder, to fill the void.

He could have opted to redshirt, but the team needed him and he liked the idea of being able to play on Saturdays in the Big 12, knowing it would be his last opportunity to do so with CU moving to the Pac-12 this year.

In the final six games of the season, Smith led the team in tackles, averaging 10 per game. He finished with 60 total tackles, including 17 in the season finale against Nebraska.

He set the single-game CU record for tackles by a true freshman defensive back that day and tied former Buff linebacker Matt Russell for the most tackles made in one game by any freshman regardless of position.

Given the chance to do it all again, Smith says he wouldn`t trade his six games for a full season.

"I guess I handled it well," Smith said. "I had 10 tackles a game. I just took the advantage that was given to me, being that if it wasn`t for everyone who got injured, I would have never played. I made the best of it. ... It was a great experience. I would do it again if I had to."

In any other year, Smith might have an advantage on teammates in the competition for playing time because of his strong performance down the stretch last year. But with a new coaching staff and new schemes to adjust to, he is swimming in a sea of information again this spring.

He says he probably hasn`t made the greatest first impression on the new coaching staff because he hasn`t been playing with the confidence that comes with knowing your assignments.

"The veterans that have been here know this stuff because they have played for Greg Brown when they first got here," he said. "So they have an advantage over me. But, you know, in the summertime when I first got here, it was slow like this for me, but I`m going to get it very soon. Over the break, I learned the plays and I`m trying to play full speed when I`m out there."

Coach Jon Embree said he has heard a lot about the way Smith played last year but he is still waiting to see that player emerge in practices this spring. He said he doesn`t know what is holding Smith back. 

"I need to see more from him," Embree said. "He had an interception early in camp, but he hasn`t shown like he needs to. So I`m expecting more out of him. I don`t know if I`m expecting too much, but he needs to show more. He really does."

Smith is practicing at both safety positions and nickel back this spring, which is probably contributing to his confusion at times.

He credits former Buff Cha`pelle Brown, who is working as a student assistant coach this spring, for helping him understand the defense and improve his footwork.

Smith is a very similar player to Brown and could end up filling the same role as a guy who lines up in the nickel back but often ends up blitzing or covering a short zone.

"I`m not playing to the best of my ability because of the new plays, but I know once I get that down, I`ll be right where I left off and even better," Smith said.


Embree said everyone made it back to campus from spring break in one piece and Monday`s practice went very well for the defense. ...

Several players practiced for the first time this spring on Monday, including center Shawn Daniels and defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe. Nick Kasa also was back in action. ...

Embree said he watched the first scrimmage of spring three times and came away with many of the same impressions he had initially. He was happy with the running game offensively and thought tackling could have been better defensively. He said defensive tackle Conrad Obi and linebacker Doug Rippy played well. ...

Embree said Saturday`s scrimmage will be held on the lower practice fields and will begin at 1:30 p.m. It is open to the public.