Smith ready to be a leader

Marcus Smith, like the rest of the Wildcat seniors, has one last chance. One last chance to play in a bowl game. One last chance to have a winning record. One last chance to help turn things around.

Smith has been playing since his true freshman season. In his three years in the program he has appeared in 31 games, starting 17 of them. His numbers have been solid, 107 tackles, 13 for a loss. The defensive end has seven sacks in his career, a number that he'd like to get higher.

He's been one player you can point to as thriving in the strength and conditioning program. He came to Tucson as a 6-14, 215-pound linebacker and enters the spring as a 260 pound defensive end with legitimate defensive line size.

"From off season conditioning you can tell how much more physical we are," Smith said. "This year we're obviously more physical because we are bigger and stronger. I think it is that we are more disciplined and know what we are doing now."

Smith can be a frustrating player. He has the strength and speed to be a great end, but has not always put it together. He makes plays and is a decent pass rusher, but seems to lack that killer instinct and mean streak that could push him into an All-Conference type player.

He's good, but not yet great.

The Cats need him to be a reliable pass rusher. He was decent at rushing the passer and had his share of broken up passes (second on the team with eight), but needs more sacks.

The team also needs him to be a leader. It's a role he is not necessarily comfortable with, but one that he realizes is important for him to fill.

"I'm not too vocal, so I just try to set an example by what I do and how I act on the field," Smith admitted. "Every once in awhile I'll say something. I think they know they can look at me to set a good example."

There is a sense of urgency with Smith. He enters his senior year knowing there is no tomorrow. This is his last chance at making a bowl game. "It's always like that with your senior year," Smith admitted. "You always want to have your best year, your last year. This is my best chance to have a winning season, we have a good opportunity."

It has to be even tougher on Smith because he chose Arizona over USC. The Trojans never officially offered, but they invited him for an official visit where they said a written offer was waiting. Smith felt the Wildcats wanted him more and pledged to the prior staff.

Now he is part of the rebuilding process for Mike Stoops' staff. He is a vital cog in a defense that was improved last year and is expected to be a stellar unit this season.

Last year the spring was a period of adjustment, this spring the coaches and players see as a time for fine tuning and getting the team where they want to be.

"It's different because we know what we are doing," Smith explained. "The coaches expect more out of us this spring than last spring where they were teaching us. Now we're fully into our defense and we are getting better."

The Cats need Smith, and the defense as a whole, to be better. If the unit can continue to make the strides they did a year ago, the senior class may the first one in seven years to go bowling.

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