Smith Trying to Find Groove

Second-round draft pick Raonall Smith had shoulder surgery and a couple knee sprains in college, but he was physically impressive at a recent stretch of camps. However, he may need time to adjust to the defensive schemes.

Bryant McKinnie is getting in better shape, Willie Offord could start at one of the safety positions, Brian Williams is getting work at cornerback with the second team. Missing among those names is a progress report on second-round draft choice Raonall Smith.

Smith, drafted by the Vikings in the second round this year out of Washington State, is making progress, albeit seemingly a bit slower than he or his coaches would like. He talked to VU in the middle of camp season and appeared a bit overwhelmed in making the transition from the college game to the pros.

"They're being patient with us, especially the rookies," Smtih said. "It's a little bit overwhelming because it's a completely different system. You've got to learn it a lot faster than you would in college or anything like that."

What's different?

"Just the alignment, the whole philosophy of the defense, pretty much everything," Smith said. "It's pretty much similar as far as the drop of the linebackers, but as a whole it's a pretty different philosophy."

Smith worked on the weak side during the three weeks of camps and showed his speed around the corner and to the quarterback on occasion. But he also has been on the receiving end of a Mike Tice barrage.

In his draft notebook compiled by the NFL, one of the lines assessing his talents reads: "Shows good ball anticipation skills and has developed good rip-and-swim moves to generate a quick outside blitz." That much was evidenced in camp, but it appears there is much more for the rookie to pick up during training camp and preseason if he wants to contribute regularly on defense.

As far as goals, Smith said he just wants to help the team, as a linebacker or on special teams … and "just make the team. Seriously."

As a second-round pick who has displayed the speed that got him drafted that high, there is little chance Smith will be released. How much of the defense he picks up between now and the Vikings' regular-season opener on Sept. 8 will determine how much action he sees on the field.

But Smith knows defensive coordinator Willie Shaw won't mince words, either, when instructing young players. "You can tell [Shaw] has been in the league for a long, long time," Smith said. "He really knows what he's talking about."

If he is a quick learner, maybe teammates and fans will be saying the same thing about Smith in a couple years. For now, however, he is simply trying to learn.

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