By the time most high school football players get to their senior year they have some experience at the position they're playing. Whether they have started or not most players have settled into a familiar role.
That's not the case for future NC State linebacker Nick Smith. The change from defensive end to middle linebacker might seem minor to some and it isn't as big a change as some others might make but it has made his last year of high school football more interesting.
Smith (6-3, 215) has been a leader on a rock solid Dr. Phillips defense that is givingup less than 13 points per game through six games.
"I'm getting accustomed to playing middle linebacker now that I've been moved there because a teammate was injured. We ran into a couple of big games. We lost to Apopka by one and we lost to Mainland by 21 so we got beat pretty bad in that one but I think we're doing pretty good. I think we needed that to show us we aren't as good as we think and we need to come together if we're going to win state."
The move to the middle may be a little easier for Smith because he has played a lot of football and has senior experience even if its at other positions. There's still a lot to learn and he's been learning on the fly.
"At middle linebacker I have to read more. I have to slow it down. I have to trust that on my defense everybody is going to do their job. When I was at defensive end I was just more going with my hands and my quickness and how athletic I was to get behind linemen. I could just be faster but now I'm getting off blocks, using my keys and it's starting to come together."
NC State wants Smith to play outside linebacker. The experience he's gaining on the inside won't be perfect practice for that but it's at least a step closer in that direction. Smith knows that learning to play middle linebacker will help him when he moves away from the line in college.
"At some point I'm not always going to be playing a passing team so I'm going to have to come and stop the run. Middle linebacker is going to help me read my keys better."
Ryan Nielsen and Dave Huxtable traveled to Florida to watch one of Dr. Phillips recent games to show support for Smith.
"We've spoken throughout since then. I think they're doing a good job up there this season. I think they're doing pretty well. There's just a couple of small things every team runs into throughout the year. As long as they keep working hard they're going to be a hard team to beat still. They're a very competitive team. The way Coach Doeren and Coach Huxtable talk it's a hard working team and they'll keep getting a lot better."