In the following weeks I will attempt to bring a comprehensive study of prospects in this year's NFL draft. Hopefully it will give not only you, but myself a closer look at who these fine athletes are and where they might land come draft day. A lot of times we only get what is being said in a draft profile or somebody's cross analysis, but I will try to go a little deeper into the lives of these young men, so we all have a better understanding. In no way am I promoting any of these prospects, even though there might be some that I would like to have on our team. That's left to the mock drafts. I hope you enjoy this series and get something out of each as we inch ever closer to D-Day.
Marcus Smith's high scool years
Marcus Smith is a defensive end from Louisville. He was born 3/31/1992 and is 21 years old. His parents are Elba Wilson and Marcus Smith Sr. Marcus was coached by Jeff Battles at Hardaway High School, where he played quarterback and part time safety.
While playing at Hardaway, he threw for over 1800 yards and 14 TDs, and added 4 rushing TDs on 227 yards. Marcus was rated the 37th athlete coming out of high school by ESPN.com. Actually Marcus was rated a 3 star prospect at quarterback by Rivals.com and a 2 star talent by Scout.com. Marcus was selected to the 2009 AAAA All-Region Second Team as a quarterback.
Marcus Smith at Louisville
About five years ago Urban Meyer wanted Jarvis Jones to play linebacker for the University of Florida. Meyer asked Jones to give him the name of the best high school quarterback he had ever faced.
"Marcus Smith," said Jones, nominating the guy who played quarterback at a rival high school in Columbus, Ga.
It wasn't long until Smith's father, Marcus Sr., received a call from the Gators' coaching staff. They wanted to see a highlights tape of his son, who had been a dazzling quarterback from the moment he started playing the position as an elementary school kid who idolized Michael Vick.
"They liked what they saw," Dad said.
Apparently so. The next call was to Marcus Jr. from the Big Man himself – Urban Meyer. The head coach wanted him to visit Gainesville. He offered a scholarship to play for the Gators, the hottest program in the game. Officially, Smith would be recruited as an "athlete," a guy who could end up at tight end, linebacker or on the defensive line.
I guess any young athlete's desire is to play for one of the biggest program's in college, and Marcus Smith is no different.
Smith's dream of playing quarterback at Florida ended because coaches sometimes say things in recruiting just to say things in recruiting. Smith never got to Florida because the Gators withdrew their scholarship offer during December of his senior season at Hardaway High School because Smith had not earned the necessary score on his standardized college admission test.
When Florida cooled in its pursuit, Marcus Smith, Jr. was puzzled – and upset.
"They were a nationally ranked team at the time," Smith said. "They were able to get anybody they wanted. I didn't get the score. They stopped calling. I didn't hear from them. At the time, I was thinking about junior college.
"It's hard to explain. I felt like a lot of schools overlooked me when I was in high school. I flew under the radar a lot, kind of the same thing as now. Not too many people really know about me even in college. That's just what happens. I was hoping I was going to get some more offers, but nobody really wanted to I guess. Coach Strong saw something in me."
What Strong saw was a Louisville football program that needed players at a string of positions – tight end, linebacker, defensive end and quarterback. Strong started pursuing Smith during his transition period while he was still coaching the Florida defense at the Sugar Bowl.
He is one of the first prospects that Strong invited to visit U of L. Smith and his father made the trip. They huddled with Strong at the Hilton Garden Inn on Crittenden Drive. His offer was direct:
Smith would be given a chance to play quarterback. But there would be no fussing if he moved Smith to another position.
Marcus Smith's quarterback career lasts one week at U of L
"I was throwing a couple of balls in the dirt," Smith recalled, with a sheepish grin crossing his face.
That's one account. To hear Louisville coaches portray it, high or wide would be no less truthful. To put it mildly, hitting receivers wasn't going to be Smith's strong suit.
Marcus used to love to watch quarterbacks Vince Young and Michael Vick play and tried to pattern his game after them. "I used to love watching Vince Young and also Michael Vick," Smith said. "I used to play like both of those guys, but I liked to throw the ball more than I ran." But it was when coach Charlie Strong suggested that Marcus switch over to defense that had his head swirling -
Smith's accuracy, though, wasn't up to major-college standards. Even he had to admit that after his first few days at Louisville.
"I wasn't looking as good as I did in high school," he said. "Coach (Strong) came up to me -- 'Why don't you come play on my defense?' And I was like, 'Yeah, I probably should play on the defensive side of the ball because I ain't doing too well here right now.' "
Marcus figured he would become a safety, but coach Strong had other ideas and set him with the linebackers to practice. Smith would play in 9 games his freshman year, mostly on special teams. It wasn't until his sophomore year that he was moved to the defensive line to play defensive end.
"One thing I can say is that it was real tough, coming from quarterback to linebacker to D-line, required me to change my mentality completely, and it took me two to three years to get me in that mindset," Smith said. "It took me time."
"It was almost like walking blind. I didn't know anything," said Smith, who moved again to defensive end as a sophomore. "The coaches tried to coach me up, but the first couple of years it took me a while to really get what was going on."
The light finally came on between his sophomore and junior seasons, as Smith and Hurtt -- part of the Hurricanes' rise back to national prominence in the late 1990s -- continued to work on Smith's technique.
"We always worked on my footwork," Smith said. "We also did a lot of pass-rush moves -- a lot of stuff with my hands and movement that would help me going into that next season."
The stage is set -
Smith led the defensive line with 29 tackles in 2012, including four sacks. That only set the stage for his 2013 breakout season.
"He's so athletic, he can drop into coverage or he can put his hand on the ground and go rush the quarterback," Strong said. "It's been good for him because he's developed, he has a lot of confidence now and he really believes he's a good player."
Those old quarterback days still serve a purpose, too.
"I know quarterback tendencies," he said. "If I'm thinking like a quarterback sometimes, it helps me understand the game more. ... Most of the time I know when it's a bootleg or play-action pass. I can tell quarterback tendencies a lot."
Marcus Smith's senior year at Louisville -
Smith is the first conference defensive player of the year since Elvis Dumervil collected the award from the BIG EAST in 2005.
Columbus, GA., native made Louisville football history in his senior campaign. He was named a Third Team All American by the Associated Press. Smith is the first AP All American for the Louisville program since wide receiver Harry Douglas was a Second Team AP All American in 2007.
The FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) named Smith a First Team All American. By earning these honors, Smith becomes the first player in school history to ever achieve FWAA First Team accolades. Former Louisville defensive end Elvis Dumervil was the last Cardinal to receive First Team All American honors by any publication.
Smith finished the regular season ranked second in the nation in sacks with 1.0 per game and 12.5 overall. He also ranks 17th nationally in tackles for loss with 1.4 per contest and 16.5 total and is 29th in the country in forced fumbles at 0.25 per game (three total).
Marcus Smith worked as a 4-3 outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl to show how he could play in space. He finished with one tackle in the game. Yahoo! Sports contributor Rob Hoff said the following about Smith's performance at the Senior Bowl practices:
None of the potential tweeners of 4-3 college defensive ends at the Senior Bowl was more convincing in their ability to drop back into pass coverage than Marcus Smith of Louisville. Whether he was step-for-step down the seam 20 yards downfield with a tight end or sliding out into the flats to cover a running back on a swing pass, Smith showed the best agility among outside LB converts in his change of direction and play recognition.
SB Nation's own Dan Kadar also noted Smith's ability in coverage at the all-star game:
Switching from defensive end to outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl, Smith looked natural in coverage. He was fluid in man situations during team drills when he covered Wisconsin tight end Jake Pedersen in the flat. He looked a little lost dropping in space, but Smith didn't look lost at linebacker.
Smith is a natural athlete with solid size at over 6-foot-3 (measured in at the Senior Bowl at 6'3 1/2) and 258-pounds. He has an NFL body with long arms (80 1/4 inch wingspan) and a 4.7 forty-time speed (according to Scout.com). On tape, he shows a good ability to wrap up on tackles and clear speed off the edge. He is the type of player that can line up pretty much anywhere in the front seven (outside of nose tackle in a 3-4) and be successful. He has experience blitzing from the inside linebacker position as well as rushing from the outside with his hand down or in a two-point stance. He literally can rush from anywhere.
Smith constantly gets pressure and if he gets his hands on a quarterback, the play will almost definitely end with a sack. Much like Ford, Smith uses his speed to run around defenders which allows him to get away with not being much of a technician. He ranges from average to above average in coverage for a player that has pretty limited experience playing in space. He has no issue with the physical part of playing coverage.
WEAKNESSES: May be viewed as a 'tweener by some. Strong enough to create a pile in the running game but struggles against double-teams. Productive pass rusher but many of his sacks (and pressures) come while looping in untouched on stunts.
Quicker and more powerful than most opponents at this level but does not possess much variety in his pass rush technique. Too often gets caught up in the hand-fighting at the line of scrimmage. A bit stiff in his midsection, showing only fair ability to bend and explode around the corner and may not possess preferred straight-line speed.
COMPARES TO: Jabaal Sheard, Cleveland Browns - Like Sheard, Smith is a productive, albeit undersized pass rusher. While neither is an elite athlete, each plays with just enough burst, power and savvy to win as either a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 rush linebacker.
--Rob Rang (2/3/14)
Smith served as a moveable chess piece on the Cardinals' defense throughout his career, logging time at every position along the defensive line as well as a stand-up outside linebacker.
Optimists will view him as a hybrid defender capable of finding a niche in any scheme. Others will see Smith as a 'tweener prospect who struggles to handle double-teams at the line and lacks the elite athleticism to develop into an impact playmaker in the NFL.
Oh, and one last thing - Marcus Smith has a 80 1/4" wingspan ...
Read more here: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2013/12/27/2873855/marcus-smith-goes-from-hitting.html#storylink=cpy