Fitzwater, Smallwood add versatility, big plays to Demons offense
NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State offensive coordinator Brad Smiley spent most of fall camp excited about the prospects transfer tight ends David Fitzwater and Corey Smallwood brought to the Demons offense.
Through three games entering Saturday’s 6 p.m. Southland Conference opener at Houston Baptist, the pair of juniors has delivered on that promise.
Fitzwater and Smallwood have combined for nine receptions, 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns. By comparison, Northwestern State tight ends caught 12 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown in the 2018 season.
“We knew what we were getting when we brought them here,” Smiley said. “The one thing is they have both caught on (to the offense) quickly. Taking everything from June 30 to this point, they’ve done a good job.
“They’ve worked. They’ve learned. They’ve made plays when they’ve had the opportunity.”
Both Fitzwater and Smallwood have a three-catch game that included a scoring grab.
Smallwood’s came in his Demons’ debut, snaring three passes for 71 yards and a go-ahead touchdown in the season opener at UT Martin. Smallwood leapt over a Skyhawks defensive back to make his 26-yard scoring grab, hanging onto the ball despite a pass interference penalty on the play.
For two newcomers who spent the majority of fall camp battling for the starting spot, they have emerged as friendly competitors whose differing skill sets have allowed Smiley’s offense to become more multiple.
“It’s a friendly competition,” Fitzwater said. “We each bring out the best in each other. We support each other when we’re not in. We do our best to do our part and keep the other team on their toes.”
Through three games, both Fitzwater and Smallwood have enjoyed a signature moment.
Two weeks after Smallwood’s touchdown grab at UT Martin, Fitzwater found himself wide open in the end zone at LSU and hauled in a 26-yard touchdown pass from Shelton Eppler, pulling the Demons to within three points of the No. 4-ranked Tigers.
Both Smallwood and Fitzwater were on the field for that play but neither were in a traditional tight end position as both flexed out to more traditional wide receiver alignments. Regardless, Smallwood was one of the first Demons to greet his fellow tight end after Fitzwater’s first career touchdown.
“I was fired up,” Smallwood said. “I ran all the way across the field to meet him in the end zone. It was a cool moment, seeing him make all those plays.”
Despite possessing different skill sets, the pair has found similar ways to spark the Demons’ offense.
Smallwood said he played tight end “briefly” in high school before moving to wide receiver as a junior and a senior. He returned to the tight end position when he arrived at Texas A&M-Commerce.
Between Smallwood’s new-school versatility and Fitzwater’s ability – and desire – to play an all-around game, it gives Smiley options whether he plays either of the pair or both at the same time.
“Last year, our 10 personnel group was our deepest and had our top playmakers,” Smiley said. “This year, graduating those guys or those guys moving on, we had to look at the other position groups – our tight ends and running backs – to bring in some other playmakers to the mix. They’ve done a really good job so far going out and executing what we’ve asked them to execute.”
NOTE: Saturday’s game will be streamed on ESPN3. The game will air on the Demon Sports Network, flagshipped by 94.9 FM The River in Natchitoches and including 710 AM KEEL in Shreveport and 105.5 KBKK in Alexandria. Free streaming audio is available through www.NSUDemons.com and the Northwestern State Athletics mobile app, which can be downloaded free through the Apple Store or Google Play.
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