"Mr. Smith has High Expectations"

Mercer County and Trenton have not had an extremely long lineage of sending top high school football players to Rutgers, but that has changed in the past 6 years with Tiquan Underwood and more. Abdul Smith is the latest player from Trenton to sign up and play for Coach Greg Schiano, at Rutgers, and committed with fanfare in the atrium of Trenton City Hall.

Coach Schiano had the highest of praises for Abdul Smith during his signing day press conference saying "He's a strong guy, I mean incredibly strong, NFL strong right now" and turned some heads because of Rutgers' need for another cornerback. SOR caught up with Abdul to give Rutgers fans a little insight on the young man that can possibly be that next big time cornerback.

I would like to thank Abdul for giving me some time while he was attending a baseball game for his school. Below is the transcript of our conversation:

Q: What is your current height and weight?

A: 6'0" 193 lbs.

Q: Do you have any nicknames or a.k.a.s you go by?

A: No…just Abdul.

Q: Do you have any hobbies or other sports you are interested in?

A: My main interests in general are sports, my Xbox 360 (and my favorite game is Madden), and talking to girls whenever I'm not doing the other two things.

Q: What players at your high school would you like to see as future teammates at RU?

A: Some guys from my high school went the D2 and D3 route and one of them went JUCO, but no one is currently at the D1 level. I went to a small high school that doesn't produce much D1 talent on an on-going basis.

Q: After seeing you at the spring game, I gained a new respect on the physique a young guy like yourself can actually have. Do you feel your physique is more natural or have you worked to improve that over the course of HS?

A: I've been lifting since middle school to try and get bigger and be more competitive in sports. When I was 3 years old my dad taught me to do push ups and I've been doing them to keep in shape since I was real little.

Q: What do you bring to the table here at Rutgers?

A: Athleticism is my main asset I bring. I've also been to a lot of meetings and have been committed to working hard to get the nickel and/or corner spot because David Rowe is possibly moving to safety which may free up both spots. I'm a hard worker and study a lot of tape to try and get better.

Q: What are your best skills?

A: Athleticism and being versatile…I played every position in high school. I'm an athlete and I really like playing any position I can get on the field to play because I have in high school. I returned punts and kickoffs, played offense and defense, played quarterback. Any way I can help the team is something I'll do.

Q: What have you been doing to get better?

A: Coach Pinkham and Coach Hewitt have sent me a lot of film that I've been studying on other teams, coverage in general, and cover 2s to learn them before getting up there (to Rutgers). They've also sent me film on a lot of different techniques I need to work on before coming to camp so I can increase my chances of being ready to play.

Q: What do you need to improve on?

A: Technique and back-paddling and getting my hips a little more fluid when I turn. In high school, I played a lot of safety so I didn't have to have as much of a quick hip turn like a corner needs to have so I've really been working on that.

Q: Are you in and how are you coming along with the Rutgers strength and conditioning program?

A: I'm still on the winter program for lifting and I've been doing a lot of running and drills in my spare time that I got from the film. It's going real well and my strength has gone up drastically compared to HS football season.

Q: What are your expectations for playing early?

A: Me, personally, I talked to coach Schiano and they told me there is an open spot for a corner and I'll do anything I can to try and win that position. After that, I'll try hard to win the nickel spot. Other than that, I have a lot of versatility from playing in high school and my objective is to get on the field on special teams if I don't win the starting spot.

Q: How do you feel knowing that you will have to compete for playing time?

A: It's a good thing and competition makes me and the rest of us better. A lot of the veterans that are on the team are good at what they do so it's a challenge. I like going up against them.

Q: What sold you on Rutgers University?

A: I had a bunch of offers…22 or 23 and Rutgers was the last one in June and I went to camp there. Coach Schiano and a lot of players that were on the team and committed in my class recruited me really hard after they saw me play, so it became a good choice for me because I feel we have something good going here. Tom and Aaron were talking to me and calling me and I agreed with them that we have something good going on here. The open corner spot was also a good deciding factor cause I'd get a chance to compete for starting time right away.

Q: Talk a little bit about the camaraderie of the players within your incoming class.

A: The guys in the class have been great and we talk all the time. I met up with Tom Savage, Aaron Hayward, Mike Larrow, Andre Civil, and Mohamed (Sanu) during spring practices just to watch and they are all real good players. I met a lot of the other guys at the spring game and we all got along real well. Our chemistry together is great and though we haven't played yet, we have extremely high expectations. We talk all the time and have become very close in a short amount of time. The main thing that bonds us together is we plan on making it happen and have very high expectations of ourselves and the future.

Q: Who do you feel you've bonded with the most on the current team at this time?

A: I wouldn't say anyone in particular yet, but I will probably be rooming with Devin McCourty and he took me under his wing during the spring a little bit, showed me some techniques, and talked to me a little bit when I was attending the spring practices. I was up there at 6:30 in the morning a lot of times and it was nice to have a leader on the team show you some stuff. He's a real nice guy.

Q: What do you like best about your position?

A: The communication we have to have with one another. The wide-outs from any team have to talk and have a lot of non-verbal communication with their offense and the corners and safeties need to talk a lot to make sure we are all working together so we don't blow coverage. That and I really like to lock down on receivers because I'm a physical type of guy.

Q: What other position would you like to play other than your position?

A: I'd have to say kick returner or flanker because I enjoyed them the most on offense in high school.

Q: What physical gains have you made as of late?

A: I've been doing a lot of stuff and everyone will see when I get there this summer.

Q: What do you plan to get accomplished at Rutgers?

A: Basically, we haven't won a Big East championship yet and in 2006 we were a play away and this year we were a play away. My individual goal is to play ASAP, but overall it's to win a Big East Championship as soon as possible [and] to go to the BCS. Then, I want to [help] bring a National Championship to Rutgers within a year of Rutgers winning our first Big East Championship.

Q: How do you feel that Greg Schiano had the highest of compliments for you during his recruiting press conference saying "He's a strong guy, I mean incredibly strong, NFL strong right now and that will serve him well…"?

A: It felt good to hear that because I've worked hard to get here.

Q: What NFL defensive back do you compare your game to the most?

A: I wouldn't really know because I haven't followed NFL defensive backs that much, but out of the group that just got drafted I'd have to say my game most resembles Malcolm Jenkins. I typically run a 4.5 forty, like Malcolm, but I'm very physical and use that to my advantage like he does.

Q: What school do you want to beat in Rutgers' first BCS game?

A: Penn State…a lot of people wanted me to go to Penn State from my high school because I went to school in PA. After visiting there and meeting JoePa and some of the coaches, I didn't see the big fuss about the place when I was there. Everyone in my school wanted me to go there cause they are all from PA and they (Penn State) were coming to my school to visit. I'd really like to beat them to show everyone that Rutgers is a good place to be.

Q: Do you have a message for Rutgers fans?

A: Yea…I hope they are ready for greatness cause that's what 2013's class is coming (to Rutgers) for.


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