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Second Year Profiles: Smoke

In the second entry of our profiles of last year's freshmen, we look at TaQuan "Smoke" Mizzell. Smoke came in as a 5 star recruit and had tons of hype. Sadly, his first season didn't go according to plan, for a variety of reasons.

Smoke had a disappointing year, but still has a lot of potential.
Smoke had a disappointing year, but still has a lot of potential.
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

TaQuan "Smoke" Mizzell came to Charlottesville with a ton of hype. I can't remember an offensive prospect with as much hype as Smoke. Many of the Hoos top prospects on offense have been OLs, and they simply don't generate as much interest as a 5-star RB or WR.

Mizzell received the first touch of the season for the Hoos, taking the opening kickoff back 25 yards against BYU. He had 7 rushes in that game for just 16 yards. His season high was 52 yards rushing against Duke, which included a 36 yard rush. He scored 2 TDs against Miami - one rushing and one receiving - and had 78 total yards. Against UNC, he recorded a 48 yard kickoff return and ended up with 142 total yards (108 of those were kickoff return yards).

On the season, Smoke rushed 45 times for 184 yards, a decent 4.1 yards per rush. He had 29 receptions for 164 yards, which comes to downright terrible 5.7 yards per reception. He also totaled 347 kickoff return yards, on 21 returns, for a 16.5 yard average, which is pretty much terrible.

Mizzell missed two games during the season with a "lower-extremity injury". This injury likely plagued him all year and took away some of his explosiveness. It helps to explain his poor numbers. The Hoos complete lack of offensive identity and ability also explains it. As the season went on, Kevin Parks took more and more of the load at RB, and ended up with over 1,000 yards rushing. This also didn't help Smoke's production level. It seemed like when Smoke came in, he was almost always being used in the passing game. His 29 receptions were 4th on the team, but hit 5.7 yards per catch is last among players with more than 3 catches.

The combination of a nagging injury and poor usage make Smoke's season look a bit disappointing. (OK, maybe more than a bit.) But Smoke looked dangerous a few times. And considering the two veteran RBs ahead of him, the expectations were likely way too high. The injury, of course, also doesn't help.

Smoke's level of hype may have diminished. The fans may already be disappointed in him. But his potential to be a game-breaking RB hasn't changed. Unfortuntely, this season is much the same. Parks and Khalek Shepherd are still ahead of him on the depth chart. Dominique Terrell and Darius Jennings (and Shepherd) are probably still ahead of him as kick and punt returners. But Smoke now has a year under his belt, and hopefully he's fully healthy. He may not be a star this year, but he'll provide a couple of "wow" plays, and hopefully get us excited for next year, when he's on top of the depth chart.