In the Film Room: Daniel Smith

There are times when you recruit a high school player who isn't overly productive based on his potential. There are times where it works and times when it doesn't work out. I once recruited a wide receiver that played in a run heavy offense and didn't produce much. He had perhaps 20 or 30 catches as a high school senior. By his sophomore season he was a 1000 yard receiver.

But I'll be honest, if I had my choice I'd rather take a player who not only has potential but has produced. Such is the case with South Bend Clay standout Daniel Smith. At this stage in his career Smith is still a very raw football player that reminds me a lot of former Notre Dame player Ronnie Rodamer. But one thing about Smith that encourages me is that through his junior year of high school he has been very productive. Already through three seasons of high school Smith has over 125 receptions, 2300 yards, and has caught 25 touchdowns. He also has made numerous plays as a safety. It's comforting, for me at least, to see a raw prospect who has shown he can be a playmaker than one who has not.

The 6'4, 205 pound Smith is a prototype possession receiver in my opinion. He's a tough player who shows no fear going over the middle, catching the ball and traffic, and isn't afraid to take a rough hit if it means he'll make the catch. He's a tall athlete who is a bit skinny at this stage in his development. He doesn't have a frame that will add a ton of weight, but he's lean enough to make me believe he will be able to add plenty of strength to his body. This will allow him to grow and develop into a player who can out-physical defensive backs and even match up well against linebackers. As I've already mentioned Smith shows excellent toughness at both wide receiver and safety. He's fearless, but in order to play with that same style in college he'll need to greatly increase his lower body strength.

The lower body strength is also needed to improve certain athletic areas in Smith's repertoire. The Clay standout is agile for his size. Smith also possesses fluid hips and is a smooth player for someone his size. He also has excellent body control and is constantly showing excellent ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes. This is on jump balls as well as low passes either in front or behind him. He's a productive player in high school at out-jumping defenders but he needs work in order to utilize this skill in college. Smith will need to improve his leaping ability at the next level. This is one area where the increased lower body strength will help as he will become more explosive as a leaper. He will also have to work on his timing (he jumps late quite a bit) and also will need to work on exploding up instead of drifting away from the football. He has shown me enough on his film that he can do it, but he'll need to be more consistent and catch the ball at a higher point. Smith isn't a fast player at this point either. He won't be able to outrun defenders in college the way he does now. He's not slow by any means; it's just that he doesn't possess the speed to use it as a weapon in college. I'd also like see Smith work on his foot quickness. He's got good agility as I mentioned and has relatively quick feet for a player his size, but it's clear to me that he has the physical ability to get even quicker, which will make him even more effective.

I do believe that Daniel Smith is a good athlete, and a good enough athlete to play and be effective at the next level. But what truly makes him so talented and will be his best asset at the collegiate level is his catching ability. Smith has excellent hands. He catches the ball smooth, naturally, and consistently away from his body. He shows excellent concentration and once the ball is thrown it seems that all Smith sees is the ball, despite what is going on around him. A coach can improve this ability in players to a certain degree, but players like Smith have it naturally and it makes them dangerous. On his film there are numerous catches that Smith makes where he either has to leap over a defender, has to go up against multiple defenders, catches a pass on the run in traffic knowing he could take a hit, or he goes up high after balls thrown over the middle and leaves himself open to get smacked hard. But it doesn't faze him, which is where the fearlessness I discussed earlier really shows. Smith also shows a solid ability to stay strong as defenders try to knock him off course or away from the ball. Once the ball is in the air Smith becomes a different player and shows a hunger for the football. I love this ability.

I mentioned earlier that Smith is still a very raw player. One aspect of that is the needed size and strength mentioned. The other aspect of that is as a route runner. Smith has all the physical tools to be a very good route runner but will need a lot of technique work. I like his foundation, as Smith has a very good and natural stance. He's loose, in an athletic stance, and doesn't have a lot of wasted movement at the snap. One thing he'll need to learn is to put a bit more weight on his front foot which will allow him to drive off that foot and propel himself downfield much quicker. This will allow him to utilize the speed he does have and will allow him to get more quickly on defenders. I'd also like to see Smith sharpen his cuts on routes such as slants and posts. At this point he doesn't plant hard when it's needed, doesn't give much of a head and shoulder move, and sort of drifts into his route. He's big enough and quick enough at this level to get away with it, but in order to excel in college he'll need to improve here. Smith also runs way too high. After a couple of vertical steps Smith tends to lift up, whether he is getting ready to run a quick cut or run deep. This forces him to be high on his breaks, makes his feet choppy, and really slows him down. He'll have to be much quicker in and out of cuts if he wants to gain separation in college. He has the athleticism to do it, but because he runs so high he doesn't show it right now. It is certainly correctable. Smith does show a very good awareness of the defense and knows how to get open. He works well against the zone and is able to find open windows. But as I mentioned he isn't quite athletic enough to run away from defenders in college. It will be imperative for him to utilize his size and route technique in order to gain separation against college defenders.

Smith doesn't blow you away as soon as you begin watching his film. But the more I watched him the more I liked what I saw. He's got a lot of room to grow physically and as a player. With good coaching he has the potential to be a productive college football player. At a place like Notre Dame, if Smith is able to develop that size and the required skills he would be a valuable asset for the Irish coaches. He has the size, strength, and ball skills to play outside. He also has the athleticism, instincts, size, and awareness to also excel in the slot. Combine that with his excellent hands and you see why I believe he has the potential he does as a possession receiver. If he is able to increase his lower body strength and explosiveness he'll also have the skill set to make a few plays downfield as well. Lack of speed isn't something that limits a player in itself. Smith has all the necessary tools (size, strength potential, toughness, hands, and agility) to be a weapon at the next level. Irish fans should hope that he decides to stay close to home, as he would be one more weapon for Coach Weis, his staff, and the talented Irish quarterbacks to use in the future. Top Stories