Diamond in the rough.
One of the best parts of training camp for the football enthusiast is finding that rare jewel; a late-round pick or undrafted free agent that turns into something special. It’s a bit like playing the lottery. You invest little, have little real expectation of cashing in, but when you do, it makes all the misses seem insignificant.
The Dallas Cowboys have been one of the better teams at doing this over the last decade, and it’s been one of the few reasons they haven’t spent it picking in the Top 10 on a regular basis. For all the faults Dallas has in picking players that stick during the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, their late hauls have always seemed fruitful.
Cowboys fans are always pining to unearth the next Tony Romo, or Jay (not Jeremiah) Ratliff, or Miles Austin. So each year, as camp kicks off, the true aficionados look over the now 90-man roster and see if there is a star in the making. During camp, we’ll take a bit of a closer look at some of those candidates, and kick it off with a look at Will Smith, LB from Texas Tech University.
Rather than regurgitating a scouting report from a service, we figured to get you some good inside scoop by going to our sister site, RaiderPower.com that does a terrific job of keeping its readers informed on everything Texas Tech. If you want the skinny on what Kliff Kingsbury is doing in the Big 12, check out Jarrett Johnson and his staff early and often.
CowboysHQ: Nerd, Jock Or Work-a-holic? Which two of these three terms best describes Will Smith?
RaiderPower: Jock and work-a-holic. Smith, 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, needs to add some more weight but he has a good frame and he can run; he looks like an athlete, or jock, at linebacker. Work ethic definitely isn’t a problem with Smith. His made a significant leap forward between his junior and senior seasons in Lubbock. He went from a marginal player to an All-Big 12 performer during that span.
CHQ: If you could only choose 1 game of Smith’s college career to showcase his ceiling, it would be…?
RP: Last Thanksgiving against Texas at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin. The Longhorns roughed up Texas Tech 41-16, but it wasn’t Smith’s fault. He racked up a career-high 18 tackles (13 solo), four tackles for loss and a sack.
More than that, Smith brought an extra physicality to the game with some punishing hits. He was a force that night, an extra step faster than usual and deserved to get the win for his efforts.
CHQ: Where does Smith win? What major attribute does he exemplify where you see him consistently getting the advantage over the opposition?
RP:Smith has a good frame, good speed at linebacker and is instinctive. It doesn’t take him long to diagnose what an offense is trying to do and react. He takes good angles and is a good tackler on special teams. He is excellent at scraping from sideline to sideline to make stops.
By all accounts Smith is a good locker room guy. He’s a quiet, lead by example player who people listen to when he does speak up.
CHQ: Where does he lose? What is the one trait he’s shown that, if not corrected, will prevent him from becoming a successful pro?
RP: Texas Tech didn’t always do the best job of keeping offensive linemen off the linebackers last season and at times Smith struggled to get off blocks. It’s not that he can’t do it, but he definitely needs to get stronger to play between the tackles at the next level.
CHQ: Give us an overview of Smith’s Texas Tech career.
RP: Smith transferred to Texas Tech from Riverside (CA) Community College in 2012. He started 11 games his first season tallying 55 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. As often happens with junior college players, Smith improved greatly his second season in the system and became one of the unquestioned leaders.
Smith finished his senior season with a team-high 120 total tackles, along with 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Smith was named All-Big 12 first team by several publications and will be remembered in Lubbock as a guy who put in the work to improve. He will also be remembered as a gamer who usually played best in the biggest games as he did his final contest--a 37-24 upset win over No. 14 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl which saw Smith named Defensive Most Valuable Player after racking up 14 total tackles, including two for loss.
Many thanks to Jarrett for taking the time out of his busy schedule to lend some insight as to what Smith will be bringing to the table. The Cowboys have many linebackers in the stable, but an opportunity exists for a young gun to make his mark quickly, especially one with the tackling prowess that Smith possesses. Camp is underway, can he impress the coaching staff?