WHAT TO LIKE
Like recent commitment Eugene Brown, Smith is a physical player. He notes that West Virginia safeties mentor Matt Caponi told him that was a standout element of his game, and that it fit him neatly into West Virginia defensive scheme. If that sounds like a repeat, or almost a cliche, for West Virginia safety commitments, it shouldn't be viewed cynically. The love of contact is clearly key for Caponi, who is assembling a group that could challenge recent Mountaineer safety squads in the hitting department. What else would be expected from Caponi, whose Twitter handle is "coach_horsepwr"?
"I love to come downhill and hit," Smith told us immediately after committing. "[Coach Caponi] thinks I am very aggressive. I love contact."
That's evident on his highlight tape, where Smith is often seen flying to the ball from his safety position. He makes others on the field look slow when he selects his angle and makes a beeline for the ball carrier. When he arrives, it's with force and technique as well, and he typically puts his opponent on the ground with a crisp blow.
Smith isn't just a defender, though. He has played quarterback at Ligonier High School since his freshman season. The knowledge he has gained in evaluating and dissecting defense should help him as a defender, as he has a good idea of what the QB is looking for. That gives him a head start on ways to disguise and counter. Still, his basic nature shines through when he's on the offensive side of the ball.
"Even at quarterback I try to run people over," he said.
Smith isn't highly rated -- yet. While he just has a two-star evaluation at the moment, which is something that some observers will latch on to, that's not a bad thing -- especially in Scout.com's more stringent rating system. He'll be evaluated solely as a safety during his senior season, and expectations are that he will rise.
"Smith has only begun to tap his potential, so do not worry about his two-star rating," Scout.com analyst Brian Dohn said. "He will be evaluated during the season."
Pass coverage technique is also a concern for most players making the jump to Division 1, and Smith will definitely get a crash course in footwork and the finer points of coverage. West Virginia demands a great deal of its spurs and bandits as they work against both the pass and the run, and Smith will have to show that he can be as fearsome against the air game as he is against opposing ground attacks.
With Smith's commitment, WVU is rapidly filling its recruiting slots in the secondary class of 2017. There are still some available, especially at cornerback, but the Mountaineer blitz this week has locked down three back end defenders that have a nice mix of skills. It's also good to see West Virginia continuing its work in Pennsylvania,where it needs to continue to maintain a strong presence. Players such as Nick Kwiatkoski have thrived in the program and bring an old school football mentality to the field -- something that can get lost at times in today's up-tempo game. Smith provides just that.
"Playing strong safety suits him best because he possesses the downhill mentality with a good burst to fill run gaps, especially between the hash marks," Dohn continued. "He needs to show he has the speed to get to the edge and make the play against Big 12 competition. Smith, who also plays quarterback in high school, reads plays well in front of him and he breaks on the ball nicely. He needs to continue to improve his footwork so he can change direction and be successful in man coverage."
Smith's selection of West Virginia over schools such as Michigan, Louisville and Boston College is also a great sign. His commitment may be one of those that doesn't raise a lot of celebration now, but that could be one that shows a great return in the future.