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Catching on: Former SHS running back leading receiver at MSUM

MOORHEAD Minn. -- Minnesota State University Moorhead receiver Bert Smith has seen it all in his college career. He's endured riding the bench, a position change, a winless season and three head coaches with vastly different offensive philosophie...

MOORHEAD Minn. -- Minnesota State University Moorhead receiver Bert Smith has seen it all in his college career.

He's endured riding the bench, a position change, a winless season and three head coaches with vastly different offensive philosophies.

"It's been chaos," said Smith, a redshirt senior.

Yet, Smith never thought about transferring or quitting on his Dragons teammates.

That perseverance has finally paid off this season.

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Smith, whose team hosts Upper Iowa on Saturday at Alex Nemzek Stadium, leads MSUM with 22 receptions despite the presence of a pair of all-conference caliber teammates at his position.

He's has become another sure-handed option for quarterback Dustin Long in the spread offense.

"It's been good," said Smith, a 5-foot-7, 165-pound former running back. "The coaches gave me the opportunity and I'm trying to run with it."

Behind several players on the depth chart, Smith finished with 212 rushing yards and a team-high four touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.

Smith, from Superior, was named the No. 2 running back in 2005, and went on to rush for 234 yards on 73 carries.

He was moved to receiver last season when Damon Tomeo brought in the spread offense and finished third on the team with 33 receptions for 390 yards.

"We try to put our best athletes on the field and use them for what they do best," Tomeo said. "(Smith) is a versatile guy. He's had more opportunities and he's catching the ball well."

Smith's success likely has much to do with MSUM receivers Bruce Green and Jabari Taylor.

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In the Dragons' first season running the spread last year, Green and Taylor combined for 1,352 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Opponents this season have tried to slow Taylor and Green with constant double teams, allowing Smith to break free in one-on-one coverage.

"He knows how to get open," Long said. "He's a senior in probably one of the best offenses in the league. He's a short guy, but he plays huge for how small he is."

Smith said he is enjoying finally being able to make a major contribution to the team.

"I'm happy and grateful," he said. "I'm just so glad my time came."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

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