Antone Smith a Darkhorse for Return Responsibilities?

Antone Smith a Darkhorse for Return Responsibilities?

Jay Adams

Published July 30, 2012 at 7:09 PM

Running back Antone Smith laughs when he thinks back on all his punt and kick return experience.

Probably because there isn’t much of it.

Save for two games during his freshman year at Florida State, the fourth-year Falcon hasn’t exactly been setting the world on fire with his return game. But that could all change if Smith has the type of camp and preseason he’s hoping for.

Smith, who came out of Florida State with blazing 4.3 40-yard speed, has integrated himself into the return game since coming on with the Falcons in 2009. While Smith admits that experience isn’t exactly his strong suit at the return positions, he’s got speed, quickness, vision and a load of other skills that help contribute to his viability as a return candidate.

“I’m going to take it and run with it, I’ll tell you that,” Smith said Monday. “Anything I put my head to, I really can accomplish, so I look forward to it.”

Aside from vying for the returner positions, Smith was an extremely valuable special teamer for the Falcons in 2011. Overshadowed by Eric Weems and Akeem Dent, Smith was just as much a vital part of the Big Four — that is, punt, punt return, kick and kick return — as anyone else on the team.

And he played all with relative ease and confidence, something he’s thinking will help him in his quest to retain the No. 4 running back spot on the 53-man roster.

“Experience has been a big key for me,” Smith said. “My first year and in 2010, I was pretty good, but last year I came on and got along pretty good and got a little more experience under my belt and got more comfortable. I felt I excelled at it.”

Likely to the point where Smith has earned a shot to show what he can do at returner. Head coach Mike Smith has his hands full with that decision down the road and stressed that there would be a lot of different players getting an opportunity to show themselves in the return game, but did say Smith would be in the mix.

“Antone is an interesting dynamic for us on special teams, because he’s such a good cover guy, he’s such a good blocker, but he’s also got the speed to be a returner,” Mike Smith said Monday. “The thing we’ll have to do is, through training camp, we’re going to have to find out who can do the returning — the first, the second and the third guy. You’ve got to have at least three guys that you feel comfortable doing it. We’ve got some guys that are starters (elsewhere) that we’ve got to make decisions on … and if we want to have starters doing that.”

Which could make Antone Smith a good candidate for the sought-after position.

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