Marcus Smith: The Young Defensive Leader

Like a seasoned veteran, Marcus Smith strode through the doors of the football offices at McKale ready to check in and begin his season. Eyebrows shot toward the sky at the sight of the linebacker; he had undoubtedly stuck to his off-season workout program. Smith looks impressively cut, and he's only a sophomore.<p>

"There were some kids who worked very hard this summer and it is obvious by the kind of condition they reported in. I'm really proud of them," said Defensive Coordinator Mike Hankwitz.

This is not the first time Marcus Smith has turned heads at the UA. As a freshman he saw significant time, playing in nine games at defensive end, finishing with 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Spring practice provided an even better opportunity to prove his talent to the new defensive coach.

"Marcus was very productive this spring," Hankwitz commented. "He has a good understanding of the game, has a great attitude and works hard, so he's fun to coach. But he makes plays and that's the bottom line – productivity."

Smith's summer included weight lifting sessions with his teammates and cousin, as well as working out on the beach and in the water. But Wednesday he was just happy to be on the field.

"It feels good to be back with everyone and see how they've changed over the summer," Smith said. "It's exciting, just like starting over."

His role this year will be upgraded from nine games, as Smith will most likely be a starter at outside linebacker. The move will force him into a unique role as a team leader during his sophomore year.

"Everyone is saying that and I think it's something I'll have to adapt to," Smith said. "I'm not the type of person who tries to get everybody pumped up, but I can do it and it will make me a better person."

The implementation of Hankwitz's new defensive system will provide more opportunities to put pressure on the quarterback. This was apparent during the season's first practice on Wednesday, and it will also open things up for those playing behind the defensive line.

"I like the freedom," Smith said. "I get to move around and am not stuck to a certain area on the field. I can chase after the running backs and receivers and get after everybody."

Arizona football opens up in three weeks against UTEP and Smith already feels the team must improve on a number of tasks.

"We need to get stronger against the run," Smith commented. "I thought that was a problem last year. But I think it can be an easy change, because it's all about hard work."

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