Smith gained valuable experience late last season when injuries to former Buff Terrence Wheatley led coaches to call on him in a reserve role. He didn't make any starts but he played in six games and faced the likes of former Iowa State All-Big 12 receiver Todd Blythe and former Nebraska receiver Maurice Purify.
"I think whoever plays the hardest is going to be the starting cornerback," Smith said.
"You've got to be consistent, make turnovers, get turnovers, know your playbook inside and out. That's what's going to win the spot."
Smith made one of the biggest plays of the season in the second half of the regular season finale, intercepting a pass from Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz and returning it for a touchdown. The play turned the momentum in the Buffs favor and they went on to earn a 65-51 victory that meant the different between a bowl appearance or a second straight year at home in December.
Smith said he learned a lot last year from watching how Wheatley conducted himself and prepared each week and he hopes to apply it to his approach this year. As if often the case with young players who are forced to sit and watch the game for a year or two, Smith says he has a new appreciation for the opportunity before him.
He is competing with two other third-year players in Jalil Brown and Cha'pelle Brown who are also hungry to contribute more
"I feel like I've prepared better this year than I have in any of the previous years," Smith said. "It's my third year in the system and I know the system better, but I still have to compete with Jalil and Cha'pelle and it's their third year and they know the system well. I mean, it's tough out there right now. It's a heated battle."