CORTLAND, N.Y. - Brad Smith spent most of the spring going back to school, studying and preparing. But the fourth-year pro didn't need a Scantron sheet and No. 2 pencil for this type of education. Some shorts and a pair of cleats were his utensils, and he probably won't be seeing his true grade until five months from now.

Smith, the former Missouri quarterback who converted to wide receiver, has been working closely with Henry Ellard, the Jets' new receivers coach, going over some of the small details of how to become better at the position.

As a former three-time Pro Bowler who stockpiled 13,777 yards, ranking him eighth in league history among receivers, Ellard definitely has the credentials.

And Smith is all ears, getting more fundamental instructions than he said he did under Eric Mangini's staff.

"When you've got anybody like coach Ellard, who's worthy of the Hall of Fame and has played as long as he has, you learn some things," Smith said after practice at SUNY Cortland Saturday. "Maybe the other coaches didn't have that knowledge. Because I mean, who would? But I learned something from them and coach Ellard has just taken it to another level. Not playing the position before, there were basic things that coming in I just didn't know. People kind of assume you know it, and he's kind of got me back to scratch."

Smith, who caught 53 passes for 450 yards and rushed for 261 yards on 42 carries in his first three seasons, has worked on all the small things. From honing his stance at the line to knowing when to come out of breaks to setting up a defender, Smith has been getting an education from Ellard, and it's showing.

For the better part of the spring and so far in training camp, he has been included in the three-wide receiver sets along with Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey. With Laveranues Coles gone, the Jets are looking for answers at wide receiver. Rex Ryan didn't discount Smith sliding up the depth chart when he raved about him Saturday.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"This is a tough guy," Ryan said. "I don't know how many touchdowns he has scored in college as a quarterback, but I think it was over 100 that he was responsible for. This is a competitive guy. He is tough. He has great size and he can catch and do everything. I don't see why he cannot be an excellent receiver. He will be given every single chance to be that guy."

And really, that's all Smith is asking for. As he learns from one of the best, he's hopeful that breakout season finally will come in 2009.

"The opportunities that I have, I try to go out and make plays with them," he said. "That's what I believe I've done over the last few years. This year, hopefully, I will get more of those and just get to get in that flow of the game. Where you're in the grind, that's where I'm at my best. Not in and out. But when you get in that flow and you get a feel of the game, that's where I love to be."

Notes & quotes: NT Kris Jenkins strained his left calf muscle but doesn't expect to be sidelined long . . . RB Danny Woodhead (head) participated in the afternoon special-teams practice after being held out of the last two practices . . . LB Calvin Pace pulled up with a leg cramp near the end of practice, but Ryan said it was nothing serious.