Demarrio Smith came to Southern Miss as an undersized defensive tackle out of Canton, Mississippi. Smith was known for being one of the more physical defensive linemen in the ultra competitive Jackson city high school league. Smith played for former Southern Miss great, Antoine Cash, who was a standout linebacker form 2001 to 2004. Cash spent time in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In his time at Southern Miss, Cash became close with current Golden Eagle head coach, Jay Hopson, when Hopson was in charge of the USM defensive backs from 2001 to 2003. As an undersized linebacker with a serious nasty streak, Cash knew well what it meant and what it took to play for the Nasty Bunch defense. He also knew that Demarrio Smith had all the qualities of a throw back Nasty Bunch defensive tackle. Perhaps a bit undersized, but with a nasty attitude and something to prove. Cash reached out to Hopson and told him that Demarrio Smith was a kid he could not afford to pass up and that Smith fit the mold of the type player Southern Miss has excelled with season after season. The rest is history as Smith became one of the last pieces of Hopson's 2016 class.
Smith reported to Southern Miss in mid- summer 2016 as a 255 pound true freshman that fully expected to redshirt and get the time needed to physically prepare for the brutal trench warfare that goes on at the division one level. That all changed when starting defensive tackle, Draper Riley, went down with bad ankle injury that would sideline him for the first half of the season. Then Rod Crayton was dinged up during the Kentucky contest and Southern Miss was suddenly woefully thin at defensive tackle. Enter a raw, undersized Demarrio Smith thrown into the fray for a little baptism by fire. Demarrio Smith more than held his own playing in all 11 games, and providing quality depth until Crayton and Riley could return. When his number was called versus Savannah State Smith responded with a sack and another tackle for loss in limited action. He later recorded a sack against UTEP and had single tackles against Rice and Marshall. Not bad for a 255 pound true freshman defensive tackle who got by on quickness and a nasty attitude, and never anticipating playing in 2016.
Golden Eagle Pride asked Demarrio what that trial by fire was like."I realized that college is a whole different level from high school. I didn't realize the amount of preparation that went into preparing for a college game. The biggest eye opener was playing in a college game and just seeing how fast things moved. It gave me an idea of how to prepare and to be ready for a game."
When asked what went into getting himself ready to compete this spring Demarrio said, "Winter workouts went great for me personally and for my teammates. I gained a lot of weight. Up to 278. I'm also stronger. I think this Winter was great for all of us as a team."
"My mindset going into spring is to prove myself to my coaches. I hope to get to the point where my coaches are confident in having me on the field," Demarrio said.
Smith is off to a good start earning the defensive staff's confidence, as he stood out Friday in the first day of pads. Demarrio is visibly bigger and stronger. He displayed those attributes during the inside drill portion of practice using his quicks and strength to make several tackles for negative yardage. Smith has always had a quick first step and fierce disposition, but now he has the mass and strength to go with it. Demarrio is majoring in Criminal Justice and has a strong passion to be a state trooper after his playing days are over. I fully expect Smith to be upwards of 285 after summer workouts and laying down his own brand of law in the trenches next fall. He is truly a young man with a bright future at Southern Miss.