Posted by Adam Jacobi
The Purdue Boilermakers' hopes for 2011 took something of a hit today as the NCAA ruled that wide receiver Keith Smith, who led the Big Ten in receptions and receiving yards in 2009, would not be allowed a sixth year of eligibility. Smith had played in just two games in 2010 before tearing an ACL and MCL, but the NCAA evidently didn't find that to be a sufficient amount of time lost to injury to allow him a medical redshirt.
The good news for Smith is that he was allowed to attend the NFL combine for 48 hours while he awaited word from the NCAA about his eligibility, so his professional career is already underway, in a sense. He didn't do any physical drills or anything -- his knee injury is only five months old, after all -- but he was measured and participated in interviews, so the trip wasn't a waste.
Still, this is bad news for Purdue, and Danny Hope didn't try very hard to contain his displeasure. "The entire Purdue football family is very disappointed for Keith," Hope said in a statement released by the school today. "We're not only losing one of the top wide receivers in the Big Ten, but one of the top leaders on our team."
At the very least, Smith should project well to the next level; he's big enough to out-muscle most defensive backs, and his route-running and hands make him a potential asset, especially on third downs. So if there's an NFL season this year*, he'll at least be getting paid handsomely to play football instead of sticking around in college for one more year. Yes, the injury will take a toll on Smith's draftability and subsequent rookie contract (there's a reason he was trying to come back for the sixth year, after all), but being forced to go to the NFL is not exactly the worst thing that can happen to a football player.
*There will not be.