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.
Chris Smith's high school years -
Akansas defensive end Chris Smith is the son of William and Sherry Smith. Chris was born February 11, 1992, he is 22 years old. Chris attended West Rowan high school in Mt. Ulla, and was coached by Scott Young. It was coach Scott who was instrumental in getting Chris to where he is today. You see, Chris Smith's ambitions like a lot of others was to play basketball, but it was the prodding by head coach Young that got him to play football -
First came the prodding of West Rowan head coach Young, who wouldn't leave him alone.
"We recruited him in P.E. class," Young said. "He was a big, athletic kid."
Smith certainly remembers.
"The coaches were getting on me hard," Smith laughed. "I just wanted to try it. I never thought I'd be at the caliber I am now."
Then came the coaching from defensive coordinator Hunt. The first thing he had to teach Smith?
"How to get in a stance," Hunt smiled.
"But we knew we had a diamond in the rough. We knew he had a lot of ability. Once you saw how hard he worked, you knew everything would fall in place."
Then came the nurturing from position coach Williams. A former star defensive end himself at Catawba, he took what he called "a raw talent," under his wing.
"I said, 'Chris, you've got the talent to make millions of dollars,' " Williams said. "But you've got learn the game."
And did he learn the game. Chris Smith amassed over 200 tackles and 48 sacks. Smith was ranked as the No. 13 prospect in the state of North Carolina by Rivals.com. Smith is considered one of the best defensive recruits in the state of North Carolina, helping West Rowan High School to back-to-back North Carolina state titles and a 30-game winning streak. As a senior, he earned Associate Press All-State honors for the second-straight year.
He was also recruited by Arizona, Clemson, East Carolina, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Virginia, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Penn State, Wisconsin and South Carolina.
"It was a while before I realized how dadblame fast that kid was," Hunt recalled. "When you see a defensive lineman run a sub-4.5 time, you start saying, 'Dadgum, this is a freak.' "
Arkansas Razorback's head coach Bobbie Petrino was impressed with Smith's speed, too. "When we were at the high school speaking with his coach, they have a number of players that will sign with other schools, one or two with Division I schools, and the one thing that always came up was that Chris was the fastest guy on the team," Petrino said.
When Chris signed his scholarship his former coaches looked on like proud papas, knowing that all their hard work with the younster had finally paid off.
Arkansas Razorback days -
During a visit in June before his senior year to the Arkansas campus, Smith signed a letter of commitment. When asked why he signed so early when he had other offers, it was pretty simple - "I fell in love with the school," Smith said.
"He was able to come over here on our campus in the spring and made an early commitment. We hung on to it. A lot of guys came after him, he had a lot of opportunities, but his word to come to the University of Arkansas and his commitment and character to keep that commitment is something that's real special."
So much so that Petrino thinks he can thrive in the big-time SEC.
"He's going to be a special football player for us," Petrino said. "His athleticism and the speed off the edge is something we're really looking forward to helping our pass rush."
Smith said Arkansas talked about making him a linebacker, "but the linebacker coach said he lost that battle," Smith grinned. "They're putting me at defensive end where I know how to play."
2010: He appeared in six games for the Razorbacks and finished the season with three tackles and one pass breakup. Smith made one tackle in his collegiate debut, Arkansas' season-opening 44-3 win vs. Tennessee Tech.
2011: He played in all 13 games with three starts and made 31 tackles, 6.0 for loss with 3.5 sacks, two quarterback hurries and one pass breakup. His tackles for loss total was the fourth-highest on the team. Chris' play was instrumental in helping his team to a 11.2 record and ranking 5th in the nation.
2012: Smith started all 12 games and was named honorable-mention All-SEC after recording 52 tackles, 13.0 for loss with 9.5 sacks, 12 quarterback hurries, four pass breakups and one forced fumble. His tackles for loss total was the seventh-highest single-season output in school history. His average of 0.79 sacks per game ranked fourth in the SEC and 25th in the NCAA, and his average of 1.08 tackles for loss per game tied for fifth in the conference.
Smith showed he could be a dominant pass rusher in 2012 after leading the Razorbacks with 9 1/2 sacks and 13 tackles for losses. He enters his final season with 13 career sacks, which is 12 ½ shy of Wayne Martin’s school record.
It would take an impressive senior season to reach the mark, but Smith believes he has at least improved thanks to an offseason with strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert. He added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame, which should help him become a better run stopper.
Smith said he has embraced film study and fine-tuned technique, preparing to help the Razorbacks at a number of spots on defense.
"I want to be very versatile as far as dropping back (to outside linebacker)," Smith said. "Sometimes I work on the inside at three-technique, pass rushing from there, standing up. I just try to do it all and try to work hard at what I do."2013: Smith played in 12 games where he amassed 36 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, 11/5 TFL, 1 pass breakup, 6 quarterback hurries, and 1 fumble recovery.
In his career at Arkansas where it was bathed in one scandle after another, Smith had a pretty solid one, where he collected 116 tackles, 29.5 for loss with 20.5 sacks, 19 quarterback hurries, seven pass breakups and one forced fumble during a career that has spanned 41 games, including the first 10 of 2013. Chris Smith was elected a team captain for his senior year.
It was a frustrating conclusion to a 3-9 season. It certainly wasn’t the way Smith or any one of the other seniors on the roster wanted to go out. But there’s some good news: Smith still has one more opportunity to prepare for and play in a game.
"It’s going to feel good to wear that Razorback helmet again," Smith said. "It’s the last time so we’ve got to put on a show."
Charlie Campbell of Walterfootball.com reported this from the tuesday practice at the Senior Bowl practice -
Smith had a good practice on Tuesday. He used his speed to get a lot of pressure in the backfield. He showed the ability to drop his hips when he dipped underneath Florida guard/tackle Jon Halapio to win a rep. He used a blinding spin move to beat Turner. The only rep he looked bad in was when Morgan Moses got a hold of him and pushed him around the field. Smith has a nice assortment of moves, and 3-4 teams have to be thinking hard about him as an edge rusher.
Chris Smith's measurements - 6'1", 266 lbs, 83 1/8" wingspan. Smith's might be more shocking than anyone's, given that he measured just 6-foot-1 in height.
So what does a 7-foot wingspan look like? Remember the name Deontay Wilder, who might soon be the next heavyweight boxing champion with the dynamic presence the division has lacked for years. At 30-0 with 30 knockouts, Wilder uses an 84-inch wingspan to deliver jabs from one end of the ring to the other. If Chris Smith can keep blockers at arm's length the way Wilder can drop heavyweights, some NFL club will be thrilled.
•4.71 40-yard dash, XP *75*
•28 bench press reps,
•37.0" vertical jump (t-3rd among defensive linemen)
•121.0" broad jump (t-8th)
•7.55 3-cone drill
•6'1", 266 lbs.
•Overall Grade: 5.31
STRENGTHS: Thickly-built pass-rusher with enough burst, lateral agility and underrated strength to harass opposing quarterbacks off the edge or when used as a stand-up rusher up the middle. Versatile defender who lined up as a LDE, RDE and even as a traditional outside linebacker for the Razorbacks.
Flashes a quick burst off the snap to cross the face of offensive tackles, as well as an effective spin move back inside to counter his exterior speed rush. Uses his natural leverage advantage effectively, showing enough strength to bull rush opponents into the backfield and hold up at the point of attack to handle run defending duties.
Very good closing speed when the ball is near. Strong, wrap-up tackler who brings the ballcarrier to the ground.
WEAKNESSES: Jack of all trades, master of none type who may be viewed as a 'tweener DE/OLB prospect. Highly inconsistent burst off the snap. Too often is the last defender off the ball when rushing out of a three-point stance. Even when he beats tackles initially, Smith tops-out quickly and shows only average flexibility in turning the corner to close.
Lack of preferred height and length is apparent in how often Smith appears to lose track of the ball, as well as his struggles in disengaging from blocks. Rarely is asked to drop into coverage at Arkansas.
COMPARES TO: Daryl Tapp, Redskins: Like Tapp, Smith possesses the combination of burst upfield and underrated strength at the point of attack to help a franchise, but size limitations could mean journeyman status in the NFL.
--Rob Rang (1/22/14)
DE Cris Smith is ranked anywhere from 72 by Draftek to 109 by CBSsports.com (early 3rd - 4th rd)