Smith: 'We're Working Hard'

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State sophomore cornerback Rashard Smith will be closely following the 2010 NFL Draft as his older brother, Quintez Smith, is hoping to be selected.

Quintez Smith was one of the top defensive backs in "small college" football last season when he starred for Shaw University, a small college in Raleigh. The 6-footer led Division II with nine interceptions and tied a Division II record by returning four picks for touchdowns.

He was named First Team All-American (Division II) by four organizations: Football Gazette, the American Football Coaches Association, and Daktronics, Inc. Smith received the highest number of votes among cornerbacks in the Daktronics poll. Quintez participated in NC State's recent Pro Day and Rashard was on hand showing his support for his older brother.

"I'm happy for him," Smith said. "He's doing a great job coming back from all the things that have happened to him in life. He's been a strong young man, and he's doing the best he can to help the family. He's trying to get to the next level.

"I really don't know too many projections about where he could be picked. We're all just sitting back hoping he gets drafted when the NFL Draft comes around. We will be one big happy family once again on that day."

Did having his older brother in Raleigh play a role in Rashard's decision to sign with NC State?

"It really didn't play too big of a role," he said. "He came to Raleigh when I was a senior in high school. I knew that the year I came here would be his last year in Raleigh so it didn't play too big of a role.

"It was good though knowing I would have someone up here who could look after me when I was a freshman... someone I could look up to. Plus, if we didn't have a game I could basically go across the street and watch him play. That was exciting."

A summer enrollee from Dublin (GA), Rashard Smith flew completely under the recruiting radar. A star at quarterback and defensive back, Smith intercepted 30 passes during his career, including 10 in each of his junior and senior seasons (also totaled 70 tackles as a senior).

For his efforts he was twice named Georgia Class AA Defensive Player of the Year ('07,'08) as voted by the media. In 2008, he was also named Georgia Class AA Offensive Player of the Year in 2008 as voted by the coaches.

How good of an athlete was Smith? He was the only player in the state of Georgia to be named first-team all-state in basketball (point guard) and football in back-to-back seasons. Despite the accolades, Smith was just a two-star prospect and his commitment in December went virtually unnoticed.

Rashard Smith earned a starting job as a true freshman.

His ability to make plays translated over right away, and he turned heads early in fall camp with his talent. Smith started the season as a backup at cornerback and shared the punt return duties with T.J. Graham. He earned the starting job at cornerback prior to the second game of the season but injured his ankle in the matchup against Murray State and missed three games.

He returned to play against Duke and Boston College before another ailment, this time a knee injury he sustained when hitting the turf at BC, ended his season with five games remaining. On the year he totaled 12 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack, and a pass breakup.

"I feel like I played pretty good," said Smith. "I wish I could have stayed healthy but the ball doesn't bounce your way all the time. I went to training room and worked hard so I could get back out here and help my team.

"Right now I'm feeling great. I don't have any pain, and I feel like my teammates are looking for me to make big plays to help us win games. I'm working hard everyday."

NC State will be counting on Smith and several other underclassmen to produce in the secondary. Last season seven freshmen received playing time in the defensive backfield, and the Pack has just one scholarship upperclassman (Justin Byers) expected to see significant action this fall.

"We're trying to get better everytime we take the field," said Smith. "We're working hard in practice and studying film. Coach Reed is teaching us what he knows, and coach 'O.B.' wants us to be one of the elite secondaries in the conference. We're not an old group... probably 95% of the secondary is freshmen and sophomores, but we're going to be alright. We're going to be out here focused and looking to make plays.

"For me it's exciting that we're real young. With all of us starting as freshmen we got some experience, and I think there will be progression from us every year. We're going to get better, become closer, and be one big family... it's going to be a well-oiled machine once we get things going."

It's obvious that Smith and the other defensive backs enjoy playing for defensive backs coach Mike Reed. The 37-year old assistant was an All-Big East cornerback at Boston College before spending two seasons in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers.

"Coach Reed is a great guy," said Smith. "I love playing for him. He played in the NFL, he coached in the NFL, and he knows what he's talking about back there. If he didn't know what he was talking about he probably wouldn't be here.

"He teaches me so much everyday. We're always working on our footwork, recognizing the routes the wide receivers run... a lot of fundamentals. He's making me a better player... making all of us in the secondary better."

The secondary could also benefit if the front seven shows improvement. At times NC State was unable to generate pressure on the quarterback and that enabled opposing signal-callers to expose the Wolfpack's youth.

The linebacking group was also inexperienced, as star Nate Irving missed the season due to injuries sustained in an auto accident. Irving is back on the field this spring and Smith believes that he will help improve the defense in 2010.

"With Nate being out there on the field the defense has more emotion," Smith stated. "We're having a lot of fun and he gives us a vocal leader in the middle of the defense. Maybe it's because he's out there or maybe it's because we want it more, but I feel like we're flying around out here. With Nate though I do think he's going to be our leader on defense."

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